Circus: A Traveling Life


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Children used to dream of running away to the circus, a dream that Norma I. Quintana (1954, U.S.A) fulfilled, many times over the course of ten years. She would drive for hundreds of miles to meet up and to photograph the troupe of an American one-ring circus. As she became increasingly enamoured with the performers and their attitudes, she fell in deeper with their tight-knit community, as they welcomed her into their trailers and lives.

Quintana's experiences came to change the way she worked. She says: "The circus taught me to embrace 'falling,' and make my mistakes without self-consciousness or self-doubt. In analogue photography there is always the anxiety that the perfect moment might be lost." The resilience and fearlessness of the performers inspired her to be fearless in the use of her chosen medium. The black and white images she gathered over the course of those ten years follow the tradition of Diane Arbus, Jill Freedman and Edward Weston in respectfully documenting a way of life that few will see firsthand -- a point exacerbated by the slow extinction of the circus.

Yet these images are not a sombre documentation of a dying way of life. Rather, there is great life and humour. This is a place where children dress up not to play, but for their work. Where sequins and diadems aren't reserved for dinner parties. Where playing a clown is a profession, one that everyone passed though at the begining of their careers and that they will eventually retire into.

Circus: A Traveling Life is available as a book published by Damiani Editore.


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