The photographs were taken in Kosmach – very old hutsul village in Western part of Ukraine, in Carpathian mountains, where the ancient traditions are carefully kept and have a big impact on the people life. Melanka is a folk holiday celebrated on January 13th, which is New Year’s Eve in accordance to the Julian calendar. Every year the villagers await and do preparations to the holiday – create masks, make costumes. Traditional masks in Kosmach are made from animal skin.
Participants of the holiday wearing costumes and masks walk from house to house – from morning till evening, they play traditional scenes and sing songs. There are several special personages in this action: “old man” and “old woman”, “Melanka” and “Vasyl” (or “bride” and “groom”), “gypsy”, “jew”, “gendarme”, “drunkard”, “bear” and many “devils”. Usually all roles are played by men.
I had been visiting Kosmach on Melanka holiday during several years. First time I was amazed and impressed and just followed the people. Later looking at the pictures I took I became very curious: who are under the masks? Usually men keep this secret (even from other participants) till the end of the holiday.
Next year in Melanka day I started to make portraits of the participants. I asked them to take off masks. Some people agreed, other – not. All the portraits were made just in Melanka holiday during several years. I followed people from house to house and asked them to stop for a moment. Colorful natural backgrounds in the village such as walls, doors, wooden elements further emphasize connection between people and the place where they live.