Ashley Suszczynski is an award-winning photojournalist based in Wilmington, Delaware, who focuses on capturing ancient masked traditions in the modern day. She aims to tell the story of how lesser-known cultures, relics, rites, and rituals have withstood time and evolved in our ever-changing world.

Through visual storytelling, Suszczynski hopes to share knowledge and understanding of these age-old customs to continue their preservation and social approval, reflecting on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of Reduced Inequalities. 

Photo of Ashley Suszczynski. Image courtesy of All About

Suszczynski shares most of her photographs and occasional videos on her Instagram account.  In early 2024, she shared that she was in Brezhani, Bulgaria, waiting for Surva, a local festival where performers, known as kukeri, dance and perform traditional rituals to ward away evil spirits at the start of a new year. 

“The practices of the kukeri have been around since Thracian times and are still going as strong as ever. The suits of the floofy Babugeri are made from the hair of the Capra aegagrus f. hircus, the Bulgarian Long Hair Goat,” shared Suszczynski in a video of the festivities. Suszczynski's posts about the festivals and traditions are often filled with little fun facts that ensure her followers are doing more than just watching what these traditions look like.

Photo of a Kukeri from the Village of Opanets, Pleven Municipality, Bulgaria by Ashley Suszczynski. Image courtesy of @masked traditions/Instagram.

Suszczynski’s oeuvre is signified by photographs of individual masked performers in full costume, standing in the environment of their hometowns. These photos appear almost surreal, with a carnivalesque impact that draws her viewers in due to how strange these masked performers look standing in these (often) natural backgrounds. They incite curiosity within their viewers, inviting them to learn more about what the performer is doing, and Suszczynski always delivers by making sure that she adds little bits of information on the customs she is portraying.

Los Machurreros de Pedro Bernardo from the Winter Masquerade of the Sierra de Gredos, Spain by Ashley Suszczynski. Image courtesy of @masked traditions/Instagram.

In another Instagram post on the performers of the Winter Masquerade of the Sierra de Gredos, Spain, Suszczynski even goes so far as to explain how the tradition was almost lost during the Spanish Civil War as all local traditional rituals and celebrations were banned under Franco rule.

Suszczynski shares how the performers, known as Machurreros, have finally returned to Spain thanks to recent efforts to continue the tradition for the first time since the 1940s. 

A simple Google search of the Machurreros or other customs she has portrayed like the Bears of Gavrila, Romania, will show how information about these traditions is not readily available to the masses, making Suszczynski’s efforts that much more critical when it comes to digital preserving and internationally sharing these customs.

Gavrila’s Bears, Bacau Country, Moldova Region, Romania by Ashley Suszczynski. Image courtesy of @masked traditions/Instagram.a

Suszczynski’s visually compelling storytelling not only transports viewers into these unique worlds but also educates them about their historical significance. By sharing little-known facts and narratives, Suszczynski fosters understanding and appreciation, breaking down cultural barriers. In an era where information on such traditions is scarce, her commitment to digitally preserving and globally sharing these customs promotes a more inclusive world where cultural diversity is celebrated.  

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