Becoming Animal – The Photography of Charles Fréger

The figures in the image above are said to have symbolized fertility. They are part of an ancient ritual in Bulgaria which continues to this day.

Over the ages, we have changed our relationship to nature and the meaning that we give to animals and other non-human parts of the world. Myths and legends have been largely destroyed to be replaced by ‘truth’ as told to us by modern science. While this has led to different understandings of the world, it has also destroyed the charm, imagination, whimsy and even fear that was associated with myths and legend. We have lost something of our soul. We have largely destroyed the fascination of the unknown.

With this change came, I suggest, our ever decreasing respect for nature. Science has been our primary tool to “understand,” deconstruct and domesticate nature turning it into a mere resource for either study or economic gain. From this followed our ever increasing destruction of the natural environment.

The images here come from Wilder Mann – a series by French photographer Charles Fréger. Fréger traveled across Europe making images of ancient rituals that persist to this day. It is interesting how many of these images consist of humans trying, in some way or other, to become animal.

While these rituals persist, their meaning has all but disappeared. Today they do not contain the richness of meaning that myths and legends used to give these rituals. Rather they persist because of tradition; more as carnival, social gathering and celebration of heritage than as something deeply embedded in society. This reflects the changing relationship we have with nature and animals. Now we purport to “know” that these rituals have little meaning. We have lost our respect, awe and fear of the animal or the human made animal. All is domesticated, controlled and utilitarian – as are these rituals – in many places now more of a tourist attraction than something deep, spiritual and meaningful.

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