Off the Rings

 
Clown Biju enjoys his local liquor in his tent during a Pune show. He drinks almost everyday. I shot this picture through a torn tent one afternoon. Photograph/Arul Horizon

Clown Biju enjoys his local liquor in his tent during a Pune show. He drinks almost everyday. I shot this picture through a torn tent one afternoon. Photograph/Arul Horizon

Photojournalist Arul Horizon delves into the realities behind the seemingly glamourous life of the Rambo circus artistes.

This story was originally published in December 2014.

"This series is my tribute to the smiles they bring to our faces, despite the hardships they face."—Arul Horizon

“This series is my tribute to the smiles they bring to our faces, despite the hardships they face.”—Arul Horizon

Circus artistes might be the best entertainers. But once the show is over, they do not have a face or an identity. Their life is a big question mark with no address, no passport and no bank account. Behind the allure of working in a circus, the ambience is a mixture of joy, sorrow, despair and triumph.

The circus has been an irreplaceable part of entertainment since my childhood years. What has always fascinated me is the life that these circus artistes live. They travel from one city to the other and live together as a family. They celebrate festivals and anniversaries together. Marriages generally take place within the unit as well.

During the four years I spent on this project, I had the privilege of photographing a newly married couple, who rushed to the circus ring soon after the ceremony! Another clown used to be a trapeze artiste, but he had to wear a joker’s attire after he broke his back. This series is my tribute to the smiles they bring to our faces, despite the hardships they face.

A poster of Indian cricketer M S Dhoni greets all those who visit this tent. Most of these artistes are fans of cricketers. I have also seen them play cricket in their free time. Photograph/Arul Horizon

A poster of Indian cricketer M S Dhoni greets all those who visit this tent. Most of these artistes are fans of cricketers. I have also seen them play cricket in their free time. Photograph/Arul Horizon

 When Shooting in a Circus

  • Carry enough storage cards. If possible, carry a superzoom lens or wide and telephoto lenses attached to two different cameras. You will not have enough time to erase files or change lenses, since the acts are fast and take place one after the other.
  • Take enough safety measures when shooting from high angles. No images are as important as your life.
  • Get the artistes’ permission before you access their space. Also, respect their private life.
Artistes climb a rope ladder for their trapeze act. This shot was taken at the Surat camp. Photograph/Arul Horizon

Artistes climb a rope ladder for their trapeze act. This shot was taken at the Surat camp. Photograph/Arul Horizon

About Arul Horizon
Arul Horizon is a principal photographer with The Indian Express. This series, shot in Pune and Surat, was showcased at a four-day exhibition in Mumbai. 

Tags: Photofeature, better photography, Arul Horizon, circus, shooting a circus, Rambo circus, the reality of circus artists, how to make photographs in a circus, travelling circus, september 2009