Poços de Caldas, Minas Gerais region, Charles Fréger went to photograph the fantasias made by a local samba school. Fantasias are those costumes made to visually integrate with the “allegorias”, the floats, all responding to an “enredo”, a theme, that is to say a visual and narrative coherence. The photographer was looking for the garment at the paroxysm of its magnitude, he will meet the exuberance of dimensions, colors, details. In response to the teeming array of these birds of paradise, he decides to take them out of their clothing frame, this invariably urban cage in which they are born, parade and die. He chooses to transplant them into an environment that these costumes never encounter: a powerful nature alternating lush forest and volcanic rock landscape.
The exuberance of the subject here is such that for the first time he will be forced to abandon the vertical framing, insufficient to embrace fantasia in all its spatiality. The distance induced to capture such a volume leads his photography towards the portrait of a silhouette, a character, an allegorical figure. Face and body becoming in turn, half perceptible. This series is in line with previous works where the photographer’s interest in cross-dressing or parade was already apparent, from the now minimalist form of the majorettes to the characters of Chinese opera.
In Fantasias, the individual is not transformed or hidden behind the mask of a skilful make-up, but swallowed whole by the excessiveness of his finery. He has left his human skin to find that of the animal. Some fifty fantasias are exhibited here, all proud of the story and the name it bears. Just as Charles Fréger had designed his guard costume in the wake of Empire, and as he was then in the process of creating his Chinese opera character, he will preside over the making of his own fantasia (see the recording of the Medusa Fantasia performance here). He will parade on his chariot, dressed in his fantasia which responds to the coat of arms and colours he had made his own at the time of the conception of his guard: a head of Medusa and for colours, yellow and purple.