Gallery: Circus Photography

Seventy-five years ago (1948) in Los Angeles, Charles Eames photographed the circus using a 4×5 Linhof camera. The circus always fascinated Charles. He believed that the circus’s stringently orchestrated and collaborative nature was a perfect analogy to the practices of design, art, and science. The circus is an eclectic, something for everyone extravaganza, with so much richness that it cannot be taken in entirely through just one viewing. Charles mirrored this vastness in presenting information and visuals in his exhibitions and films.

In a lecture Charles gave for the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and an article published later in October 1974 in the Bulletin of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Charles shared his philosophy about the circus:

The circus is a nomadic society which is very rich and colorful but which shows apparent license on the surface….Everything in the circus is pushing the possible beyond the limit…. Yet, within this apparent freewheeling license, we find a discipline which is almost unbelievable. There is a strict hierarchy of events and an elimination of choice under stress, so that one event can automatically follow another. The layout of the circus under canvas is more like the plan of the Acropolis than anything else; it is a beautiful organic arrangement established by the boss canvas man and the lot boss….The lot boss knows exactly what his relationship is to the boss canvas man because the mutual objective and the method of accomplishing it are clear to both. In the actions of circus people waiting to rehearse or preparing to perform, there is a quality of beauty which comes from appropriateness to a given situation… The concept of “appropriateness,” this “how-it-should-be-ness,” has equal value in the circus, in the making of a work of art, and in science.

Recent Stories

The Toy

Charles Eames believed that a good toy held clues to the era of its inception. Looking within the walls of…

The Solar Toy and a Visual Language of Sorts

The Eames Solar Do-Nothing Machine was a solar-powered toy made as a commission for the Aluminum Company of America, or…

Traveling Boy

Traveling Boy was the first film made by Charles and Ray. The lessons learned from its creation helped grow the Eameses into experienced filmmakers. …