Mardi Gras Indians, 2013: the photography of Clayton Cubitt

"The baby on the right was masking for the first time and could barely stand on her own."—Clayton Cubitt

New Orleans native Clayton Cubitt, a photographer now based in Brooklyn, is back in his southern homeland for Mardi Gras, shooting wonderful things. Above, one of the Mardi Gras Indians portraits he's been posting to Twitter/Instagram.

Legend has it that Mardi Gras Indians originated as a show of respect for the neighboring Native American tribes that sheltered runaway slaves. Comprised of working class men and women, the Indians sew their own beaded costumes all year in preparation for Mardi Gras. Weighing up to 130 lbs and standing as tall as 10 feet, the costumes are different each year.

But also, underneath the Indian imagery, intermixed with it, is African imagery and chants. As one big chief said, the costumes were also a way to celebrate their African heritage in a hostile culture. Mardi Gras has a long tradition of this, from the Indians to the gay ball culture, anything is possible when everyone is in masks.

See the rest of the series, as he posts them, here on his Tumblr.