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Beyond the Circus Tent

A collection of dynamic portraits of world renowned Circus Artists and interviews about their unique perspective on the world.

About the project

Beyond the Circus Tent is an international collection of dynamic portraits of some the the world's best circus artists. Over the past seven years, I’ve photographed over forty circus artists from all over the world.
These portraits are staged to highlight them, not just as the circus discipline they perform, but as an individual.

I removed them from the spectacle of the stage, make up, and costume. Dressed in their favorite “normal” clothes. I take a photo that highlights the Olympic level of training and skills they have acquired while showing them as a person, a human, with hopes dreams, flaws, and depth.

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Interviews

Live Like Acrobat Podcast with Shenea Stiletto

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THOUGHTS ON TECHNIQUE

by Avi Pryntz-Nadworny

While I have always loved gymnastics and juggling, I fell in love with the circus community the year I was hired to perform with Cirque du Soleil. I discovered an incredible array of artists from all cultural backgrounds who came together to train and perform. Within this community I found a mutual respect for time spent on physical training; we spend countless hours obsessing over and perfecting each trick you see on stage. There is a mutual respect for the time spent to achieve certain physical benchmarks: a one-arm handstand, juggling five clubs, performing a double backflip. This understanding of the time and effort required for circus provides an automatic connection between strangers across nationalities and cultures.

 

Although it is possible to have circus performers from anywhere in the world, there are cultural and historical trends for where the highest-level acts in each discipline tend to originate: contortionists from Mongolia, acrobats from Ukraine, and jugglers from France are a few common examples. Due to specific training styles in different countries, circus performers often watch one another train and quickly recognize where they studied. A Ukrainian hand-balancer bends their fingers in a handstand, and the French tend to juggle with lots of dance-like movement. When I watch other performers I see a roadmap of where in the world they have trained in addition to their own personal artistic style. Even though there are a limited number of circus disciplines, there is no limit to the creativity and diversity of the form.

 

Often, while I do not personally know the artists prior to photographing them, we have at least 25 friends in common from all over the globe. Being part of this community has allowed me to capture many images that would have been impossible if I was not a circus artist myself. During the shoot I ask each subject to show me the moves that are unique to them; something they have attained after great investment of time and effort. Although it’s apparent to any viewer that my featured subjects are highly skilled, the appreciation of the photographs and the disciplines they represent increases when viewed with cultural knowledge of circus.