American Circus

These images were shot in the mid-1990s when I had the opportunity to spend time on the road with the Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus.  Since renamed simply The Cole Bros. Circus, it remains one of the last great tented circuses in America.  Three rings under the big top.  It starts in Florida each year, works its way up to New Hampshire, then works its way back south.  Two shows a day, three shows on Saturday, from March to Thanksgiving without a day off.   

The circus is a self-contained city as it moves across the land.  It carries with it weight rooms, plastic swimming pools, barber shops.  It has elaborate rituals for set up, take down and getting to the next field or parking lot.  And it is a classed society: workers and performers. 

Collectively, these photographs portray an American subculture and illuminate an Americana that endures. 

 

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Before the Show, at the Backdoor - Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus ●Before the Show, at the Backdoor - Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus ● Before the Show, at the Backdoor - Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus