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THE PASSING RING (1996-present)

The Passing Ring is an extensive portrait of one of the few nomadic “tribes” in America, the Culpepper & Merriweather Great Combined Circus. A traditional one ring, Big Top tent show, with winter quarters in Hugo, Oklahoma, C&M travels everyday for 8 months of the year. Over the course of the past 2 decades, I have had the good fortune to photograph the show throughout California, Montana, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Kansas, Washington, Idaho, Minnesota and Arizona.

While seemingly familiar, my protagonist – the Circus – is an elusive character, rife with complexities and contradictions. My photographs fall into a few categories: portraits of the many unique individuals whose paths converge under the Big Top; images that highlight impressionistic, archetypal elements of this age-old spectacle; mundane moments of life on the road; landscapes of and around the ever changing circus village. Photographing all these elements while resisting only one visual style, I am invoking the poetic spirit and mercurial nature of the Circus. It is against the odds that the show will survive in this era of technology, and the crowds are growing smaller. Nonetheless, Culpepper & Merriweather persists, moving quietly though the countryside and tiny towns west of the Mississippi, arriving each day just after dawn. Twenty-four hours later, the caravan pulls away leaving barely a trace, save some imprints on the ground and in the minds of those who came to see the show.

I am currently editing this work for a book.

*Please note – the 12 images here represent only a fraction of this massive project.