17 September–14 November 2010
Fastnacht is a photographic project by Axel Hoedt. In the making of these images, predominantly portraits, Hoedt travelled across Southern Germany, setting up a portable studio in the villages he visited, and working with a large-format camera.
The photographs were taken in 2008 during a three-week period dictated by the regional timing of the Fastnacht festival. This varies according to the date of Easter and the commencement of the Lenten period of fasting each year.
Fastnacht, literally meaning ‘the night before fasting’, is an annual carnival held in Germany, but also in Switzerland and Austria, which has roots in both Christian and Pagan traditions. The latter are particularly relevant to the region in which Hoedt was working, where grotesque and frightening masks are often worn to chase away the spirits of winter, in preparation for the coming spring and a new harvest. Almost all of the costumes that appear in Fastnacht have a closely protected specificity to a particular trade, family or geographic area.
Some of the figures are new interpretations of historical characters; others, such as the wire mask that reveals only an eerie shadow of a face when photographed unworn, are older and highly valued originals.
More than just dressing up, during the Fastnacht festival villagers take on roles and adopt the traits of the characters they portray in public parades. The series poses compelling questions about studio portrait photography and the continued use of costume in relation to regional traditions, cultural identity and collective memory. Selections from the Fastnacht series were published in the German newspaper Zeit-Leben, for which Hoedt received a Gold medal at the 2010 Lead Awards for the best editorial portrait series of the year.
Axel Hoedt: Fastnacht was curated for Fashion Space Gallery by Magdalene Keaney.
Supported by Metro