In both glory and grit, these remarkable photographs give us the American circus during the most vibrant period in its history, capturing 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 offhand elegance he allowed his subjects, even the wonderful animals. His striking portraits make us recall the sober and revealing work of August Sander. (blurb from Goodreads)
Rating: PG, 4 stars
Trigger Warnings: racist/ableist language
There’s probably going to be an influx of circus-related books on the blog, as I’m writing an honors thesis about the circus this coming school year and have to do lots of research. I was really excited when I found this book, because it covers the time period I’m working with (turn-of-the-century) in photographs. It’s surprisingly hard to find old photos of the circus, particularly the kind of photos I want from the time period I want.
These photographs were all really cool, and the captions, when possible, gave a lot of details about the who, what, where, when, and why of each photograph. It was not at all a text-heavy book, but it’s a good companion to reference books and books like Queen of the Air, which I hope to read and review in the near future.
In the captions there is some language that could be considered racist or ableist. I appreciate the efforts to keep early 1900s circus jargon intact, but I did wonder sometimes about the manner in which that was done.
If you have any interest in circuses, or even turn-of-the-century Americana, this book is worth a look through. It won’t take too long, and the photographs really are a fascinating look at daily life for circus employees of that era.