When I arrived in Gibsonton Florida in 2008 many of the old school sideshow faces were long gone, the local giant and his tiny wife, the man that could put nails, railroad spikes and other objects up his nose, the tattooed lady was gone too and the fat man was bedridden. I discovered the last holdout of the original sideshow folk at the end of a road in the town as if they were the sole survivors of a virtually forgotten era, away from special affects and virtual reality. Semi-retirement, a mobile home and a pretty meagre existence seemed to be their present day existence. The sideshow promoters and a dwarf lived next door to the magician; a few other people were thinly spread away from the old circus overwintering town. After some protracted negotiation and the exchange of cash, the good old folding variety, I managed to loosely organise them into a situation where on the following day I had about eight hours to work miracles.Fortunately I was given one of those sunny Florida days for the outside work and borrowed the magicians’ workshop for the rest; the small clown was photographed in the back of a damp fusty trailer with available light from a partially covered window, otherwise I put him inside my old steamer trunk to illustrate his diminutive size. These people once lived for their work and soon put it back together for me, a couple of months later the magician died and much later the dwarf used his makeup for the last time too. Of course sideshows are still around, but nowadays tattooed and pierced ‘ladies’ are everywhere, not to mentioned the odd fat man and the next generation of circuses are governed by a whole new set of rules, many do not even have a tent. So despite my arriving a little late I managed to preserve something unique for the future.
Naturally everything was shot with my manual cameras and unique collection of Zeiss lenses on black and white film, naturally I still shoot film today and process my own as well as print the results the old way with chemistry in my darkroom, all wonderfully tactile stuff and no Photoshop or save and delete button here!
Nicholas A. Price Copyright ©2018
About the author:
Nicholas A. Price is a true renaissance man being a full-time writer, master fine art photographer and visual artist of more than 30 years.
His articles have been published in several books and also featured in presentations, lectures and interviews at the Guggenheim Heritage Museum, KNPR, Boston Globe, USA Today and the Las Vegas Review Journal.
His art and photography are featured in many important institutions including the Library of Congress.
You can also follow Nicholas on his twitter accounts: @finefilmphotos and @nicholasaprice