Being nomadically inclined, I’ve always understood the appeal of running away and joining the circus. In fact, if it weren’t for shared bathroom facilities and a little too much socialising for my tastes, I would probably have already done so.
F-Stop have released a new issue of their always awesome e-zine, focusing this month on the theme of Amusement. Their featured artist is Lacey Terrell who has spent the past 13 years documenting what she calls one of America’s last nomadic tribes, the Culpepper & Merriweather Great Combined Circus.
The circus travels continuously for eight months of the year, mainly throughout the midwest, and is otherwise based in the remote town of Hugo, Oklahoma – perculiarly, the town of 5,000 people seems to be the winter home of about a dozen competing circuses.
Anyway, back to the photography. Terrell’s work captures the essence of what the circus is all about: bright colours, movement, and the promise of something new every day. It also goes behind the scenes to depict the reasons that circus performers choose this lifestyle in the first place: for some escapism, others restlessness, boredom, cameraderie or sheer desparation, for the lack of a better option.
The Passing Ring is a culmination of over a decade’s hard work, and the quality of the images definitely reflect the artist’s dedication. You can see more of Terrell’s work via West Hollywood’s Kopeikin Gallery. Also worth checking out is the F-Stop group gallery exploring similar themes.
Edit: after hearing from Terrell herself, she suggests some more reasons why people join (and stay) with the Circus:
One thing not mentioned was that many of the performers are true artists, trained in Circus arts since they were children. So there is an artistry element, as well as a life-style element that factors into the reason for being with the show. Other non-performers have many reasons as well. For some, it’s a business. For some, an adventure. For some, a second chance at life away from hardships experienced in the past. And for others, it’s what they know. Circus is a way of life, offering a sense of community and family to many. EB White wrote, “The circus comes as close to being the world in microcosm as anything i know; it is universal and complex magic.”
All photos copyright Lacey Terrell.