When we think of vegetarianism, we think of a hearty baked butternut squash perhaps or a freshly tossed salad with tomatoes gleaming in the sun. But in Phuket, Thailand, a Vegetarian Festival occurs during the ninth month of the Chinese lunar year, that’s so extreme and beautiful it puts our Western veggies in a cool, dry place with our potatoes. During the festival, locals of Chinese extraction observe a strict vegan or vegetarian diet for ten days as part of a spiritual and physical cleansing process which is exhibited in a variety of street processions and public rituals.
Fascinated by the idea, self-taught photographer Guillaume Mégevand documented the festival last year and immersed himself in some breathtakingly weird situations. In the series Blood and Firecrackers, one of the rituals captured was the launching of fireworks at each other while simultaneously driving swords and hooks through their own flesh, where rising above the pain was simply part of the process. While the images of weapons being sunk into flesh images are shocking, we’re drawn more to the procession photos – they’re powerful and show the community of Phuket celebrating in a joyful riot with the fireworks providing the only light to their customs. And sometimes it’s just nice to have some unstaged, unique images that give a glimpse into cultural traditions so alien to us.