Rachael Jablo

Under a Circus Sky

“The circus is a tiny closed off arena of forgetfulness. For a space it enables us to lose ourselves, to dissolve in wonder and bliss, to be transported by mystery.” -Henry Miller, The Smile at the Foot of the Ladder

I photograph spaces normally restricted to the public in some way. I create voyeuristic experiences that result in a feeling of peering into a world where one is not supposed to be.

Using long exposures and dramatic depth-of-field, these color photographs are rarely about a particular object; rather, they focus on the absence of people, showing a hazy, ghostly, lonely, and surreal world. However, although the literal subject matter should inform the viewer to keep out, there is a dreamy, fairy-tale like quality that invites the viewer to step into this sacred world.

“Under a Circus Sky” is a series of large scale intensely colored traditional c-prints shot in the quiet moments in and around old-fashioned one-ring circus tents. Between performances, I go inside the big top, photographing the glittery detritus and empty seats after the circus. As the lights come up in the tent, I disappear backstage, behind the tent, into the performers’ shadows, amongst their props and homes. I use long exposures to capture what is eclipsed by the spectacle– trailers where performers live, the machinery and heavy cables needed to erect and support the tent, the ropes and rigging gear for each apparatus– the stillness and anticipation behind the spectacle.

In shooting the circus tent without the performance, I emphasize the illusion that the tent adds to the experience. Each aspect of the edifice seems designed to throw off your sense of normalcy. Entering a temporary fabric building thrown up on an empty lot, you are protected from the elements but still feel surrounded by them. The floor is asphalt or dirt, and the deep blue ceiling mimics the night sky. The ephemeral, illusory essence of the circus itself emanates from the building that houses it. Devoid of the performers and spectators who give the circus its usual energy, my images evoke an unnatural sense of silence, like a nomadic ghost town.