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David Vintiner and Gem Fletcher: Les Hombres du Musgo (detail)

Work / Photography

Extraordinary photo-series documents the “moss men” of Corpus Christi

Traditions are funny things, aren’t they? What seems on first impression to be just man wearing a spacesuit made out of moss (why not?) is in actual fact a highly revered aspect of the Corpus Christi procession in Bejar, Spain. And if it weren’t for art director Gem Fletcher and photographer David Vintiner, who laboriously investigated and documented the process, I’d be none the wiser.

“I’ve been wanting to shoot the project for two years,” Gem told us, “ever since I saw some news images documenting the Corpus Christi procession which takes place annually in towns all over Spain.” The moss thing isn’t a common occurrence across Spain, however. “Bejar, where the images where shot, has a unique addition to the Corpus Christi celebrations and that is the Los Hombres de Musgo, the moss men (and women!) commemorating an event which happened there in the 14th Century. Legend has it that a Christian army initiated a successful attack on the fortress of Bejar cleverly camouflaged in moss to blend in with the foliage of the town.”

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David Vintiner and Gem Fletcher: Les Hombres du Musgo

Naturally, Gem was fascinated enough to travel to Bejar to find out more. “I was mesmerised by this surreal and unique legend, so together with photographer David Vintiner went to investigate. We spent time with the six chosen, five men and one woman, documenting the dressing ritual, hours spent wrapping the body in layers of moss. Together they stagger and stumble, carrying that great weight, through the streets as part of the procession.” It sounds something like a cruel punishment, but in fact being chosen as one of the Hombres is a huge honour, Gem continues: “Rumour has it that they are selected because they have prayed for something which has then become a reality.”

Gem’s previous work includes a film about ski jumping which was made to accompany a project by photographer David Ryle. “I’m really interested in the idea of multiple layers within a project that connects elements from different eras,” she explains. We wonder where she’ll find herself next.

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David Vintiner and Gem Fletcher: Les Hombres du Musgo

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David Vintiner and Gem Fletcher: Les Hombres du Musgo

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David Vintiner and Gem Fletcher: Les Hombres du Musgo

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David Vintiner and Gem Fletcher: Les Hombres du Musgo

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David Vintiner and Gem Fletcher: Les Hombres du Musgo

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David Vintiner and Gem Fletcher: Les Hombres du Musgo

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David Vintiner and Gem Fletcher: Les Hombres du Musgo

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David Vintiner and Gem Fletcher: Les Hombres du Musgo

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David Vintiner and Gem Fletcher: Les Hombres du Musgo

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David Vintiner and Gem Fletcher: Les Hombres du Musgo