The 43rd Monte-Carlo International Circus Festival


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For the second consecutive year I returned to Monaco to spend a few days backstage at the Monte-Carlo International Circus festival. Arguably the most significant event in the global circus calendar this prestigious festival is often referred to as the Oscars of the circus world, with the best international acts being invited to compete for one of several coveted prizes. None is so famous or revered, though, as the Clown D’or, or Golden Clown — the circus performers’ most distinguished accolade.

monte-carlo-international-circus-festival-monaco-nick-warner-circus-documentary-photography
monte-carlo-international-circus-festival-monaco-nick-warner-circus-documentary-photography

My visits to Monte Carlo, as anyone who follows my work will guess, are a part of my longest personal project — photographing circuses and circus artists. I have been taking photographs backstage at the circus since I was a teenager, and it has become a serious undertaking that, I hope, will one day comprise a book. I’ve managed to make a good connection with someone at the festival press office and my (already very generous) access was improved from my first year. I enjoyed a full four days of unlimited artists’ pass. During shows I spent my time shooting backstage and around the edges of the Chapiteau (big top). I grade these images black and white because firstly, it helps with the quality of the images shot in extremely low light, and secondly, it creates a clear distinction between these images and the main portraits;

Artists from Gia Eradze’s famous Royal Russian Circus

Artists from Gia Eradze’s famous Royal Russian Circus

As with the previous year the work I made in Monaco comprised both these reportage images shot during the show and also more formal, strobe-lit portrait sittings with artists from the lineup. I posed the artists as I always do — fully made-up and costumed, but without the flare and flamboyance of their characters. I ask the subject to recede into themselves, as if to become invisible within their show attire. It’s always interesting to watch trained athletes and gymnasts attempt to slouch, drop their shoulders, uncock their hip.

monaco-montecarlo-circus-international-festival-circusphotography-circus-photographer-reportage-documentaryportrait-chapiteau-nick-warner-london
monaco-montecarlo-circus-international-festival-circusphotography-circus-photographer-reportage-documentaryportrait-chapiteau-nick-warner-london