Circus and Contortion

April 21, 2013 in Photograph, Shoot, Social by William

Here’s something you only hope to hear but never expect it to actually happen.  “Hey, do you want to come to my contortion class at the circus school and take pictures?” said Jazzmin Jolly.    Two parts of the question are awesome, contortion and circus!  Truth be told, Jazzmin had mentioned her contortion class before, and I probably gave very obvious, unconscious hints about wanting to take pictures, but I digress.

The Philadelphia School of Circus Arts is an actual school that you can go to learn everything circus including acrobatics, climbing on top of another person with ease, and how to contort.  After several weeks of tracking down the director of the school, and working with the instructor to get permission (and signed model releases), we were off!  Jazzmin and I had spent a Sunday morning shooting products for various cosplay companies, and then we headed off to circus school.

I brought lights, stands, modifiers, flags, reflectors, and the kitchen sink.  First rule of circus club: don’t bring much except for a camera unless you’re looking for exercise.  I didn’t think through the fact that it’s a real school, with students circusing, and there would be little room for me let alone equipment.  Second rule of circus club: you don’t get to photograph people you didn’t get to sign a release.  The school was a large open room with every corner efficiently used and many more people than just the class I had sign release.  Many of the other classes were clear when I arrived, “no pictures other than the contortion class.”  Third rule of circus club: bring lens with wide apertures, f/1.2, f/1.8 etc.  Otherwise you can’t take a picture without getting others in the shot that you will have to edit out.

So while I had imagined a grand photography event where there were fantastic shots with lighting to blast out the sun and focus on a flying contorted individuals, the project took on a more humanistic theme.  Contortion is painful and requires dedication for many years to even get to the beginning stage.  I know.  I tried to touch my toes after seeing the class and stretch my back so much that I needed to sit on the couch and finish watching Arrested Development on NetFlix.  But don’t worry, I photoshopped a picture of me touching my toes with the liquify filter!

The pictures tell the rest of the story of individuals, dedication, limits, struggle, pain, and reward for me I hope…