Charles Fréger 

Yokainoshima, 2013-2015

In 2013, just after finishing his European tour of winter masquerades (Wilder Mann), Charles Fréger began a photography project exploring Japan’s masked ritual figures. Photographing sumo wrestlers (Rikishi, 2002-2003) had already made him familiar with the country, but he knew nothing about rural areas. That is the topic of Yokainoshima: through an inventory of masked figures, he paints the face of Japan’s countryside, the traditions that set the pace of its inhabitants’ lives and the earth upon which they tread and work. Over the course of five trips, Fréger travelled through many inland areas and islands, experiencing Japan’s particular relief, its extent and the natural phenomena that regularly rock it. His extensive exploration of the archipelago has allowed him to sensitively grasp the reasons why the Japanese have an empathic relationship with their environment and their extreme awareness of nature’s vitality. Yokai, oni, tengu and kappa, which can be translated as ghosts, monsters, ogres and goblins, are ritual figures imagined by man and embodied during festivals and ceremonies as an attempt to tame the elements and find meaning in natural events. Presenting a variety of forms existing in Japan, the series undeniably achieves a documentary objective. Yet Fréger no longer seeks the realism of situations or comprehensiveness. His portraits are obviously partial in both meanings of the word. Herons, stags, ogres, demons and other figures from Japan’s bestiary are shown outside the context of festivities, moving around in rice paddies, fields or water.
Yokainoshima (‘the island of the Yôkai’) has become part of the personal cartography Fréger continues drawing one series after another, made up of lands inhabited by a humanity that is earthly and otherworldly at the same time. (from artist site)


Charles Fréger encountered many interesting things during his two-year journey through 19 European countries documenting pagan festivals. The resulting series, “Wilder Mann” is on view at Yossi Milo Gallery in New York through May 18. Curious about these ominous-looking figures? Find out more here:


The extraordinary painted elephants of India | See full photo gallery

The Elephant Festival takes over the city of Jaipur every year. The animals are draped with jewelry and given majestic multi-color makeovers (complete with pedicures), before doing a procession through the streets. Later they race, play elephant polo and take part in a human vs animal tug-of-war. 

Photographer Charles Freger travelled to Rajasthan to get a sneak peek.


Traditional & Ceremonial Pagan Costumes of Europe Photographer Charles Freger has spent many years roaming around Europe to take pictures of costumes from Pagan rituals. The series, entitled “Wilder Mann,” inspires “images of an older, wilder and more tribal Europe, filled with wild beasts, bonfires and pagan gods.” The tradition of men dressing up as wild animals and monsters, which dates back to neolithic times and shamanism, is still very alive nowadays. This seems to represent the complicated relationship humans have with nature.