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Barnumville

February 14, 2010

I’ve had Matt Hoyle‘s photography on the brain for a couple months now.  The majority of his stuff is hyper-realistic in style, so shiny as to make the subject seem to be out of a vintage illustration for the Saturday Evening Post. His “Barnumville” photos lack the gloss of his  other series, but the colourful subjects made me even more curious about the project.

In an interview about the series, Hoyle reveals that these portraits “were initially just a recording” of the performers, in preparation for a greater thematic project depicting his imaginary town of Barnumville, where sideshow performers live in their time off. I’ve always had a soft spot for the idea of circus performers, so the thought of a fictional sideshow community just about made me jump about in glee. I can completely see these people pictured below retiring to some small town in the Florida panhandle. Scandals abound, outrageous acts are pulled off, but at the end of the day the charming characters spout good ol’ fashioned horse sense, peppered by observations from their crazy experiences. Into stereotyping, moi? Never!

I think the big thing that strikes me about this collection is that it manages to tread a very careful line between strangeness and  and complete normalcy. When I saw the picture above, I gleefully prepared myself for a freak show, but as I scrolled through the shots, I found myself pleased by the fact that these people who are so often fetishized because of their careers are shown as normal people. Some of them, at least. Others are in clown makeup, or are human blockheads (shudder!) so can’t quite tread that line, but I like the contrast. Anyway, check out the shots below.

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