Carnival of the Uncanny: Photographer captures one of the world's most reclusive communities

In a remote green valley, nestled amongst Lake Como’s forests and alpine pastures, a strange and archaic ritual takes place. Every year a reclusive community, counting fewer than a thousand members, comes together to recreate the story of the Bèj and the Brut (the handsome and the ugly ones), as part of the Carnival of Schignano.

Full of allegories and symbols, the parade depicts the farewell of the men from the village to seek work as migrants. The festival is anarchic, without rules or written laws, and as participants are eclipsed behind their masks, an instinctual sort of spontaneity takes over, leading to a beautiful kind of chaos.

Photographer Mattia Vacca spent a total of three years building up exclusive and intimate access to this extremely closed community in order to photograph its ancient and surreal rituals. But he was at pains not to interpret the event through his own biased perspective.

"My work aims to reflect this uncanny reality without questioning it, without explaining it, or trying to put it into context," he explains. "I want to keep alive the illusion, the traditions handed down from generation to generation. I constantly followed the way the Carnival took me, and had to leave the rational part of myself behind. You have to take a leap of faith and plunge into this hallucinatory world."

Entitled A Winter's Tale, this evocative series was completed in collaboration with photoeditor Emanuela Mirabelli of Marie Claire and has appeared in book form thanks to a crowdfunding campaign. It has also been presented at TedX Italy as part of a talk by the photographer.

Via Creative Boom submission | All images courtesy of Mattia Vacca