Ola Billmont‘s photographs from ‘Knödel und Bier’ take us to the Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany and right into the middle of the revellers drinking their litres of beer and eating everything from Knödel – which are boiled dumplings – to roast chicken, sausages, sauerkraut and cheese noodles. All of it swimming in beery stomachs only to be puked up amidst the dancing, partying and collapsing wherever a space can be found.
The Oktoberfest is the world’s largest funfair and folk festival which runs for 16 days from late September to the first weekend in October. Over six million people, from all over the world, make their way to Munich to drink large quantities of beer – over seven millions litres of beer are consumed – and have fun on the various fairground attractions and at the numerous folk dancing and music events. With a tradition that goes back over 200 years the festival has spawned many imitators over the years yet Munich still retains its unique atmosphere and debaucherous reputation, has a character and a history that marks it out as one of the truly great festivals of the world. And it’s into this melee that Billmont takes his camera, shooting intimate pictures of strangers at their most vulnerable; puking, wasted, exhausted, asleep. These are the antithesis of tourist board postcard images for they reveal the truth, a reckless abandon, a fun time that has been going on for centuries. People letting their hair down, getting dressed up and going mental for two weeks.
There is a joy in these photographs, a visceral connection between photographer and subject as if Billmont is intimately involved with them and the festival itself. How else could he get so close, so private. There is a sense in his photographs that he’s always moving through the crowd only stopping to take a picture on the fly before the partygoer realises what’s going on. This sense of intrusion gives these photographs an energy and voyeuristic quality that makes them hard to ignore. They are a street photographers dream.