The light falls perfectly, people are just starting to stream into the campground, and then those candy striped tents against the desert and that sky, you can’t ask for a better backdrop.
As a photographer, you always feel a little more aware of your surroundings than other people. After all, your livelihood depends on your eyes, on seeing things that other’s don’t. But it’s easy to forget that no matter how aware you are, everyone eventually becomes numb to their daily environment.
That’s why traveling outside your comfort zone is so important to longevity in this industry, it keeps your eyes fresh, not just on the road but when you come back home. And traveling doesn’t necessarily mean somewhere far either, it could be another neighborhood, a different block, a quick hike, or yes, biking through Cambodia.
Photographer Markku Lahdesmaki was born in Finland and left very early in his career to study abroad, first to UK and later as an established advertising photographer to US. For the last 20 plus years he has been working in LA California for both European and American advertising agencies/clients. At the same time always working on his personal projects. Few of them listed here: Mumbai Taxi Company, Havana Taxi Company, The Finnish Tango Night, Vein of Life – California Aqueduct, Avanto – Hole in the Ice and the one here in the pictures The Circus.
Couple of years ago he moved from LA to the foot of Mt. San Jacinto, which towers above Coachella Valley California. Every day something new catches his eye. One day last year Markku was driving towards Joshua Tree and spotted circus trucks parked in the field in Yucca Valley. He stopped and found out that a circus had just rolled into town. The rest is in the pictures he was able to capture within the five days the circus was in town. The whole thing was very spontaneous and he had to do a lot of adapting on the fly, but that’s also what made it fun he says. “I remember standing in total darkness behind the curtains with some of the artists and thinking how the hell can I get anything captured with almost no light at all, but it worked out well in the end”. [Official Website]
No idea how the performers can find their way in the ink-black of backstage, often times in costume, and possibly shepherding a cart full of small dogs. This one is of one of the circus’ more indefatigable performers; he is running this dog show and is one of the guys riding the motorcycles in the neon-bubblegum colored Mad-Max ball of doom. Something about this image, perhaps the smoking jacket-like thing he is wearing, really makes one think of the 70’s.
The clown on his way into a performance. The freshness of the makeup, the hand, the colors, all stand out right away.
The motorcyclist here is getting ready to ride his halogen-festooned bike in an enclosed cylinder along with two other bikers.
In the backstage, before the Black Falcon’s first performance at the circus. All the light is coming from a door that is momentarily propped open, which is almost the only way one can ever really see anything.
When the cannon goes off, the man goes flying. Everything that this project is about; wonder and spectacle alongside the rough-hewn DIY aesthetic of the circus and the hard-working people who make it go, all of that is in this picture.
A funny moment because all the dogs are waiting for that last dog to jump down but that dog has decided that there isn’t going to be any more jumping that night. In the dog show something would always go a little bit off script. A couple dog’s wouldn’t be listening, or maybe one would run off to pee somewhere, all very imperfect but again, that was part of the charm.
This guy is one of the veterans of this circus and like a lot of the people there, he wears a lot of hats in a day. He is such an old hand, just fully locked in on his job.
The Human Cannon before the performance. It is very dark but a portable ring flash allows to actually light his face just enough.
The dog wrangler and his wife coming out with all their dogs. You can tell by their body language that it has been a long day. The dogs, not so much, they seemed to always be in a high spirits.
What a motley crew the audience members are. They all look like they could be characters in their own quirky indie film. That eerie lighting is courtesy of the circus’ mix of spotlights and fog.
This child makes the photo, obviously. That and the blood red bucket seats.
This was the Black Falcon’s first performance and afterwards he seemed slightly disappointed by how it went, but the fans loveds it. Kids and superheroes.
Everyone wears a lot of hats in a circus like this. This clown has one dog who he would perform with, then maybe off to sell tickets or work a spotlight.
Great light, beautiful child brimming with excitement in anticipation of the show.
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