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Charles Fréger at TH13

Wilder Mann

Fascinated by social groups and their characteristic attire, Charles Fréger’s latest photographic work explores the figure of the ‘wild man’ across European societies and cultures. TH13 presents a selection of his contemporary portraits, evocative of ancient, ancestral rites.  

Fondation d'Entreprise Hermès - Charles Fréger at TH13
© Charles Fréger

Wilder Mann is the result of a journey involving close encounters with fifty communities in eighteen European countries, all of which observe rites featuring traditional costumes made from furs, accessories or attributes derived from indigenous animal populations and the local landscape. From the Babugeri of Bulgaria to the Busos of Hungary, the Arapides of Greece or the Strohbären (‘straw bears’) of Germany, each figure embodies a distinctive local tradition of the ‘wild man.’  

Following his work with jockeys, majorettes, members of the French foreign legion, sumo wrestlers and their respective ‘uniforms,’ Fréger (a French photographer and graduate of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Rouen) focuses here on a broader, more loosely-defined group. ‘Beyond picturesque carnival characters and folklore, I wanted to capture Europe’s community of “wild men,”’ he explains. The portraits offer an insight into mankind’s carefully nurtured animal side, and our relationship to nature.  

As TH13 curator Paul Cottin observes, the Wild Man costume allows the wearer to ‘take on the appearance of a monster, reinstating the Other at heart of the Self.’ Charles Fréger’s images confront the individual and his innermost fears in this dense, extensive yet visually coherent series: flash photography defines the silhouettes against their background settings while simultaneously focusing on the surrounding landscapes. The complete collection will be published in a monograph by Thames & Hudson.

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