Wilder Mann

For two years in 2010 and 2011, Charles Fréger criss-crossed Europe from north to south, from Finland to Portugal, passing through Romania, Germany and Slovenia, in search of the figure of the savage as it survives in local popular traditions.

These images, like archetypes, half-man half-beast, animal or vegetable, resurface from the depths of time on the occasion of ritualistic, pagan or religious festivals, celebrating the cycle of the seasons, the fat days, carnival or the eve of Easter. In the common fund of the European rural societies, these characters or emblematic animals represented protective figures or symbols of fertility. Today they evoke an imaginary, impulsive and physical world where everyone perceives an ancestral relationship with nature where the springs of our animality and sometimes the regressive desire inherent in some of our behaviors emerge. Charles Fréger speaks of “a zoomorphic figure whose rudimentary aspect and ritualistic dress refer to a universal nudity”.

The outfit does not allow any glimpse of skin, the human figure is completely buried under an avalanche of heavy furs, wools, bells, horns and other materials and accessories. Here again, photographing outside the periods of festivals or carnivals, he stages these characters in a natural environment that he often chooses to be wide and open. There is also this other freedom taken with regard to the silhouettes themselves, not hesitating to omit some voluntarily, and to photograph others from behind, claiming the partiality of his inventory, more poetic than scientific.

Punctually, thanks to new discoveries, the photographer adds an additional silhouette, in Ireland, in England, in Alsace… At the beginning of 2013, he leaves for Japan, in search of the Namahage, bearer of sermons for children as well as wishes for good health and fertility of the soil. This looked on paper like the Japanese counterpart of the Austrian Krampus portrayed in Wilder Mann, and turned out to be the beginning of a new photographic campaign, Yokainoshima, completed in 2015.