Lacey Terrell: The Passing Ring - LENSCRATCH

I think about the notion of the Circus’ place on the fringe of culture, while also being at its historical core.  The performers passing through ‘the backdoor’ in and out of the ring, taps into notions of performing identities and is one of my favorite el

For the past 25 years, photographer Lacey Terrell has had a ring side seat at the Big Top, in particular, the Culpepper & Merriweather Great Combined Circus. This year will be her last foray to follow and document the circus in order to complete her long term project, The Passing Ring, a project that not only reflects an extensive portrait of one of the last nomadic tribes in America, but also echoes the evolution of taking pictures.  The series includes images made with a Hasselblad, Holga, Mamiya 645, Pentax 6×7, Nikon 35mm film, Leica film point and shoot, and a Nikon Digital. Photographed through much of California, Montana, Iowa, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Minnesota, Arizona, Nebraska, Washington, Idaho and Kansas, Terrell has created a massive archive of this very vulnerable, slice of Americana. “I have seen the Big Top both packed and almost empty, looking brand new and tattered and patched.” Her visits have ranged from a few days to 5 weeks at a time, always depending on where they were, and how much time and money she had.  “Typically I would drive my car and stay either in a tent on the lot (known to some as the Little Top) or in the car, and occasionally at a motel nearby. Many of the towns don’t have motels, or don’t have motels that I would feel safe in by myself, so I prefer to stay on the lot. When I was on the road for 5 weeks, through Texas and the Southwest, I stayed in the home of one of the women on the show, and then would drive the then owner and founder of the Circus, Red Johnson’s, pick-up truck and trailer each day to the next town.  More recently, I have flown to locations and rented cars large enough to sleep in while on the road.  I still dream of getting myself a small trailer and traveling a full season- that would be ideal for finishing up the project… but I would need some serious funding!”