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|Wild, Weird, and Wonderful: The American Circus Circa 1910 as seen by F. W. Glasier |
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|Product Details |
W.W. Norton & Company
From Publishers Weekly
Dispensing entirely with circus clichés, Sloan (Hoaxes, Humbugs, and Spectacles) presents the photographs of Glasier (1865-1950), a commercial photographer in Brockton, Mass., who shot promotional photos of the various circuses that repeatedly came through town over the years. His photos, printed fully rather than as they were cropped for ads, reveal a subculture presenting itself unapologetically (even defiantly)-and fascinatingly. Sloan writes: "As a sustained document of circus life at this time, there is no known equivalent": "The Illeson Sisters, Acrobats" finds two child performers perched on large balls, hoisting the smallest (in a near perfect split) between them, with their prideful looks questioning the assumption of total exploitation; in "Sparks Circus, 1923," a clown, via barely perceptible wires, tows a skeleton behind him that seems to float as it mimics his movements; a group shot of a circus wedding party (the ceremony itself often "held in the center ring in front of the spectators during intermission") shows the participants extolling a solemnity-within-spectacle that also displays their intelligence and deliberate self-fashioning. An introduction by essayist Timothy Tegge ("born and raised performing as a clown in his family's one-ring circus," the press chat notes) vividly traces circus history back to Rome. Anyone interested in American cultural history will find that these 62 b&w photos reveal a great deal about how performers-often from a great diversity of backgrounds-comport themselves toward their art.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
A form of entertainment that claims to be the greatest show on earth had better deliver. That the circus does is confirmed by the photos F. W. Glasier made during the traveling spectacle's heyday--even more unequivocally than Edward J. Kelty's group portraits of circus personnel (see Miles Barth and others' Step Right This Way [BKL N 15 02]). For while Glasier also made portraits, he liked to get relatively candid shots, which the cumbersomeness of Kelty's huge "banquet" camera didn't allow. So... read more
Here, in both glory and grit, is the American circus during the most vibrant period in its history. These photographs, not seen for almost a century, show it all, from the pre-performance parades and tent raisings to the magical events under the "Big Top" and the train leaving town. We see performers hanging by their teeth and hanging out the laundry, and much in between. These truly remarkable images capture both the intensity of the routines and the spirit of camaraderie of the performers. Glasier's work was unique in many ways, not the least of which was the off-hand elegance he allowed his subjects, even the wonderful animals. This was the era of the big tents, and in these beautiful prints they appear as seductive, gossamer backdrops to the performers. Mark Sloan's discovery of Glasier's work is a true gift to circus lovers and all of us who care about our past. 75 duotone images.