The series of photographs entitled, ‘Circus Kirk,’ was a continuation from a series of Toronto circuses that I photographed from 1971-1974. In the summer of 1975 I traveled to the winter quarters of Circus Kirk, the tented show that originated out of East Berlin, Pennsylvania. We toured small towns on the east coast of the US where I made photographs taken with my Leica Camera and a variety of Zeiss lenses. I traveled with the circus for three months documenting the daily routine of the tent riggers, performers and audience members who attended the performances.
While apprenticing for Minor White as his darkroom assistant in Arlington, Massachusetts, from September 1975 until June 1976, I processed one hundred and seventy rolls of film and printed the portfolio of photographs in his darkroom. In 1976, just after I finished printing the bulk of the circus work, I was offered a one-person exhibition at the MIT Photography Gallery in Cambridge. At the time I declined the offer because, 'I was too young to exhibit.’ Unfortunately I was impressionable, emulating a former mentor of mine who restricted himself to the same criterion. Consequently, the seventy or more photographs have never been exhibited or published.
In my written introduction from 1975, I wanted to travel and document ‘a way of life, that of the circus’. At the time, I was unaware that the life I truly documented was antithetical to my intentions of capturing the inner workings of this itinerant sub-culture. The sequence of pictures interplays between the ‘real’ circus and the imaginary one, a model of the circus. Visually, the microscopic and macroscopic worlds overlap and emotionally, laughter is ambiguous. The portrait was both of myself reflected in the collection of circus photographs and the troupe of people I worked with in the circus.
While traveling, I kept an extensive written journal vividly recording the experience. I felt I was like a modern day Homer reliving the Odyssey, (not the contemporary character from the animated cartoon, the Simpsons, which did not exist then, but the other famous one,) who leaves his my native country to discover himself.
I left Canada to go out into the world, across the border into America. It was a new and frightening country, which was both dangerous and exciting. Although it was emotionally difficult for a number of reasons, what kept me going through the trying period was making pictures everyday and Paula Singer. Paula became a close friend who was a writer and poet. Officially, her position was our exceptional cook who eventually had the nerve to become a performer in the ring. Paula wrote the introduction to my circus portfolio. Today we remain close friends and continue to exchange stories about circuses.