Each year, bizarre moss-clad figures parade through Spanish towns for the annual celebration of Corpus Christi. After years of fascinated observation, art director Gem Fletcher and photographer David Vintiner followed a group of shrouded revelers all the way to Bejar, Spain in order to document them.
These hombres (y mujeres!) de Musgo (moss men and women) have been dotting Spain since the 14th century when “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,” Fletcher explained in an interview with It’s Nice That.
From afar, these moss people might resemble some profoundly deteriorated zombies. Their bulky suits constrict movement, forcing them to stiffly advance along with their cohort. Despite the physical strain of carrying layers of heavy, humidity producing moss, not to mention the sensory disorientation of wearing an earthen helmet, the title of moss person is coveted.
“It sounds something like a cruel punishment, but in fact being chosen as one of the Hombres is a huge honour,” Fletcher explained. “Rumour has it that they are selected because they have prayed for something which has then become a reality.”
Fletcher and Vintiner zoomed in on the six lucky moss people of Bejar, from the laborious process of their outfitting, in which sheets of moss are secured to the body with twine, to the final staggering product.
This photo series captures the bizarre sculptural quality of these costumes as well as the dignified demeanor of the participants, who feel the pride and purpose of carrying on an ancient tradition.