In her new book, Dressed for Thrills: 100 Years of Halloween Costumes & Masquerade, Professor Phyllis Galembo’s camera captures costumes that rise from the dead to once again dance, play, and amuse. Striking and beautifully lit photos, they display costumes that range from handmade to store-bought, satin to polyester, the masks, wigs, and costumes, whether recognizable figures or obscure, pique our childhood memories.
"As a child, Halloween for me was an important time and not a scary one in the least," says Galembo. "In our home it was second only to Purim, the Jewish holiday during which children and adults dress as Queen Esther or Mordecai, important figures from Bible stories. To this day I remember the bric-a-brac on the dress that my mother made for my character of Queen Esther. I imagine this is where my lifelong obsession with costumes began and why Halloween to me has been more magical than trickster."
Galembo started photographing people in festival costumes in the 1970s. Her interest in ceremonial garb continued after a 1985 trip to Nigeria, where she photographed traditional priests and priestesses. From there, Galembo went to Brazil, taking photos of the traditional priests and priestesses of Candomblé, an ancient African religion. "Candomblé was brought to the New World during the Atlantic slave trade of the 16th century, and this specific religion with its riot of color and ceremony has always interested me. Through these experiences I began to understand the spiritual nature of clothing and its impact on both wearer and viewer," says Galembo. Later, in Haiti, she continued working with the "spiritual and transforming power of clothing," and from there, she focused her interest, and her camera lens, on holiday clothing, and then Halloween costumes, in the U.S.
"Halloween allows us to experience and explore the shared ethnic, cultural, and folk celebrations that have engaged diverse peoples throughout history. It is these common threads that inspire me to celebrate and document the use of costume and masquerade," says Galembo.
This book of photos is a feast for the eyes--no trick, just treat!