Invitation to Fly - Shabazi Circus
Kibbutz Ein Shemer, Israel.
2012 and ongoing
A flying trapeze artist creates spectacular acrobatics; muscles tensed in effort hidden from the eye of the beholder, tension that is the essence of the perception of circus art and that which I try to capture with my camera.
Shabazi Circus is the story of women who represent its pulsating core. The story of initiative; power and feminine creativity. The story of a wondrous place where everyone is welcome to fly.
In 2012, through my place of work I was given the opportunity to meet with Ronnie Calev, co-founder and director of Shabazi Circus. This meeting opened a door for me to a wonderful and challenging world of photography which has become one of my favorite projects. Since then I have photographed the circus at various times. Sometimes these are end of year shows and training sessions of children who learn at the circus school, often they are rehearsals before performances of students in the academic program or performances of Israel's leading circus artists (and some from around the world).
One of the strongest and most prominent features of the Shabazi circus is the feminine presence. Beyond the fact that it is run by two women, the circus team consists mainly of female teachers and of the students themselves women and girls are an absolute majority. Of course there are boys and men, and the door is open to everyone, but there is no doubt that the uniqueness of the place is the power of women that is present and motivating.
Most interesting to me as a photographer is to catch in a photo shot the dramatic tension in the life of a circus performer. The training, sweating, difficulty, immense physical effort, pain, uncompromising quest for perfection, and taking the body and its abilities to the limit. Catching the moment when all these reach their peak during a performance, training session or rehearsal. I seek to document the astounding beauty but also, and perhaps especially, the tension between the enormous effort and the seeming ease which is in my eyes the distilled essence of the art of the circus.
The circus is a challenging place to photograph. A round arena; a subject that is constantly in motion at varying heights and problematic lighting. When photographing during the day, the canvas of the circus tent lends a flat yellow light, with no play of light and shadow, as opposed to shooting at night during a performance with stage lighting and in almost complete darkness. The lighting in the circus is a major reason for my choice many times to photograph the circus in black and white, which gives me a clearer contrast and enables the creation of photographic drama. However, this is not always the case and when appropriate and suitable or for a particular series I do shoot in color.
The Shabazi circus acts in Kibbutz Ein Shemer in Israel as a regional hub for artists and contemporary physical circus arts. The circus school at this location has 230 students from age 5 and up, after-school activities and an academic training program for teachers and circus artists.
These works are just a taste from a much bigger story of a wondrous place where everyone is invited to fly.
Heartfelt thanks to dear friends Ronnie Caleb and Ronnie Shalev, the circus managers and to all the children and circus performers photographed and continuing to be photographed by my camera.