Chinese photographer Zhang Xiao’s “Shanxi” series captures the otherworldly rituals of a lunar New Year festival in China’s Shanxi province. The series’ ethereal photographs were taken with a simple Holga film camera, creating a haziness and sense of mysticism that emphasizes the integrity of the festival’s rituals despite cultural reform and modern influence.
Zhang states, “[These photographs] document old customs originating from pagan ritual practices. They are, in effect, a voodoo-esque form of totem worship. A number of these ancient customs still survive and remain some of the most important cultural practices during the Lunar New Year… It appears that the participants have created a dramatic and otherworldly stage-dressing in stunning costumes and exquisitely painting their faces to represent the identities of Gods otherwise long forgotten.”
The images feature extravagantly dressed festival participants, performing ancient rituals and processions to welcome the New Year, as well as the preparations-girls applying elaborate makeup and a masked man taking a break for a cigarette-before the festival.
Zhang himself seems to have been stricken by the festival’s ability to almost exist outside of time; “When I first witnessed the festivalgoers parade around the village, I repeatedly asked myself if I had stepped into some kind of surreal wonderland…With every glimpse of the unfolding events, I felt an overwhelming sense of joy and happiness. Trying not to disturb this beautiful trance, I truly hoped that I would never wake up.”
All images used with permission.
Via The Guardian