Printing: Kerteminde Tryk Binding: J.P. Damm & Søn ISBN 87-418-5403-9
While the Carnival lasts, there is no other life apart from it. Mikhail Bakhtin
First of all, the sounds of it: A slow, booming rumble and then a quick, harder sound. Drums, flutes and cymbals! And suddenly the procession emerges from be- hind a corner in one of the narrow, winding streets of the medieval city. An explo- sion of brilliant colour, swirling movement, vivid faces. Shaking limbs, rocking feet at crazy angles over the cobble stones - big city Samba. The Street is transformed into one, enormous body dancing to the same rhytm again and again. The rhytmical space expands infinitely, to the exclusion of everything else. And after the procession has moved on, a large, gaudy bird remains in the Street to change a diaper on a baby lying safely on a doorstep. Utopia? No, Copenhagen, 1982. The eighties were to witness the return of the Carnival to Copenhagen — following an absence of almost two hundred years. During a hot Whitsun weekend about 200.000 Copenhageners took part in one of the greatest festivals in the history of Copenhagen. Or rather: They were the Festival. This event was born of the cold. During the dark winter months nine groups in different parts of the city plotted to bring imagination into power. Costumes were made, masks shaped, and the ballet dancer Eske Holm went from place to place teaching the Copenhagen Samba. A group of organizers consisting of twenty people provided funds for 25 bands etc. and worked like slaves to prevent the colossal ar- i)« rangement from collapsing. They succeeded magnificently. The god of water guides a boat manned by white clowns through the canals. The spirit of the air comes shimmering down over the city in the shape of three pink an- gels with parachutes for wings. And down below on the heavy Earth horrible dra gons make their tortuous way towards the heart of the medieval city, which throbs already with the pulse of the Samba. The city is bewitched. The busy everyday crowds in the streets have been trans formed into a sensuous wawe that renders traffic lights obsolete. It is impossible to imprison this expression of life in the usual categories of bureaucracy, politics or
business. Once the city becomes a collective body, strong forces are let loose which may frighten and fascinate at the same time. Just below all this joy of living there is an undertone of irreality, something dangerous. The Carnival is partly a carefree festival, partly a sort of weird, electrical magic. It is true that everything else disappears from sight while the total theater of Car nival lasts. But the Copenhagen Carnival is coloured also by the dark years from which it springs. War and depression find a reflection in a more universal struggle between Life and Death. The mask makes it possible to transcend the limitations of everyday life. And every- body can participate, including the rabble who did not take part ind the patient ef- forts during the winter. A pair of diagonal lines or soft curves painted on your cheekbones —enough to make you somebody else. The mask provides you with a different identity and the courage to test some possibilities which otherwise would have been hidden away and forgotten. If it is possible to take possesszon of your sen ses, that is what happens here. And when you finally return to your everyday life, you do so at a higher level than before. Clowns, mountebanks, fools, transvestites and animals, who do not normally hold leading positions in the city society, have now liberated the city. The grotesque and the abnormal has unexpectedly come into power —and rudely resigned it at once, because madness is more fun than control. By night the city is dried out. There is not at single drop of beer for a rasping ton- gue. The unorganized part of the Festival begins to gain momentum in the half- light of the summer night. The rhytms of the Samba mount in furious ecstasy, as if in love, beaten by ten thousand hånds against everything that will give off a sound. Bottles, boxes and barreis. Chains of dancers make their way everywhere, stitching the night together. Chaos is near when everything seems to reach a peak. A few exhausted revellers have fallen asleep among broken beer bottles. But next morning the streets are
swept clean again; the police even report a non-violent weekend. And everybody who had only a small feather in his cap says: »Next year I’ll really dress up.«
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How These Vietures Were Made
Since I made the book on Christiania (1979) I have been experimenting with the combined use of flash and available light. When this technique is used delicately and on the appropriate occasion it can recreate a li ving sense of the experience. It works like this. The flashlight will freeze any movement in the subject, and the available light provides depth to the picture. The flash only illuminates subjects close to the camera. The choice of shutter- speed Controls the amount of movement recorded in the subject, but the flash ensures that the foreground will be sharp. The balance be- tween the flash and available light can be altered to give the effeet you want. The flash may be dominant or the daylight. Tests must be made so that time is not lost working this out. Further more, I would like to add that the technique of combined light is very good if you like to dance and take pictures at the same time - as I often did during the Copenhagen Carnival. I would like to thank my fellow photographer Chris Steele Perkins who helped me edit the photos.