Photographer Norma I Quintana celebrates the eccentricities of circus performers in America

Quintana's project "Circus: A Traveling Life" chronicles a 10-year collaboration between the photographer and an American travelling one-ring circus

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The Independent Culture

Circus performers have long been a favoured subject of photographers. But for Norma I Quintana, they had never been celebrated in an appropriate way, having their otherness highlighted rather than their eccentricities honoured.

"If you go back and look at Diane Arbus's work about people in the circus [in the 1960s], there was an element of freakishness and oddity. Even before her, other photographers presented a dark side, a melancholy."

Quintana's project "Circus: A Traveling Life" chronicles a 10-year collaboration between the photographer and an American travelling one-ring circus.

When, in the summer of 1998, the Oklahoma-based Circus Chimera rolled into Quintana's home of the San Francisco Bay area, she was fascinated by the cast of characters – acrobats, trapeze artists, tightrope-walkers and clowns – who came from all over the world.

 

Though at first she imagined she'd spend just a few days photographing them, she ended up travelling with them and getting to know them as individuals over the following decade, until the circus folded.

"I had imagined they'd be a marginalised set of people, but I found them to be family-oriented, and continuing their families' legacies," says Quintana, now in her late fifties.

"Initially, the performers were hesitant," she recalls. "But I came day after day, week after week, year after year, and got to know them as people, artists, family. They grew to embrace me – as I did them."

'Circus: A Traveling Life' is published by Damiani Editore, at £28. For more (including signed copies): normaiquintana.com

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