The original Vagabond II

Last week our tiny Spanish village received spectacular guests. Travelling blood in its purest form flow through their veins, and they have fascinated me since I was a little girl. Zirkus Berlin settled right next to the river, and man, what a sight!

There were tigers, elephants, caravans and those emblematic light bulbs dangling from the top of the circus tent. What a welcome contrast to everyday life on a hot, sleepy afternoon at the outskirts of the world! It made me think of the ‘good old days’ when the arrival of the circus was one of the main events of the year.

My husband asked if he could hang around with his camera, and they said yes. Frank Bugler, the circus director, is one of these people who comes across as cold at first. But once you spend some time with him you realize that the man is genuine.

A genuine clown…

A genuine elephant trainer…

And a genuine family man…

I don’t know if you can tell that my sentences aren’t quite coming together right? As a travel writer there’s no excuse for not being able to convey the experience… But the thing is that Frank and Esmeralda (his wife in the image above) and the other circus artists evoked something in me – call it a sadness if you like – for a dying lifestyle. And truth is, my feelings are getting in the way of writing about this in an objective manner. But then again, objectivity is no aim for a blogger, so bear with me…

The circus no longer holds its position as unique entertainment for kids. There is tv, dvd’s, computers, cinemas, ice skating rinks, aqua parks and an endless array of other options. Then there is the fact that animal’s rights groups have stained the traditional circus with blood on their hands.

I too have issues with tigers kept in small cages and elephants being trained to do stuff they would never dream of doing in the wild. But then there is the spirit of the circus. The magic, the smells and the people. Their vagabond blood has kept them on the road for no less than five generations (in Zirkus Berlin’s case). This is the only way of life they know, and the only life they want. When asked what he would do if he could no longer work the circus, Frank’s silence said it all. Thirty, long seconds later he looked me straight in the eyes and said:

– There is no plan B. There never has been. It’s the circus or nothing.

So whilst I take my hat off to these dedicated, passionate people, I put my trust in Spencer’s images, and hope they can tell the full story. The one I lack words to describe…

Born and raised in the circus


49 comments on “The original Vagabond II

  1. Spain’s small village, really beautiful! Their clothes beautiful, advocating music, and this is very modern people, especially the United States

  2. Hi Photito.

    I am pretty new to this blogging lark. I feel as if I am a very slow learner. I am only just coming to terms with the art of blogging. Or so I kid myself.

    I have not done much travelling for quite a few years but have done a bit in the past and am thinking of doing a bit more in the very near future.
    Your pictures and words seem to have acted as kindling to the idea of just one more time.

    I find the thrust of your words somewhat confusing. On the one hand, to me they portray an image of a romantic world that is unfortunately disappearing. Perhaps?

    On the other they highlight what (for those who live the circus performers life) is what I take to be one of little reward outside of giving others a moments pleasure and entertainment. Of course, I think that we are all different and I can’t really know that….

    Although you say that you ‘lack the words to describe’ the situation, perhaps because of the the dissonant feelings bought about in you, I feel that I know exactly what you are talking about.
    Perhaps this is because I have seen circuses in various places in Asia where it seems not only OK, but seemingly commendable to show the likes of congenitally deformed people off for entertainment value. I suppose that it is better to do this than starve or live a life as a beggar in a society that does not enjoy the iniquitous privileges of The West. Or should we be more concerned about animals in small cages that are obviously bored out of their minds.
    What can I say except, I suppose that’s Humanity for you.

    BTW love the pictures. What sort of camera were they taken with?

    One more question for you Photito.

    Personally, I am envious of your job of travel writer, but tell me, in these post-modern times, where many are being told via government-speak, that we as a species, are going to have to curb our travelling habits in the near future, what do you see your raison d’ etre to be?
    In informing people what is out-there so they do not have to go and see it for themselves, or, in stirring feelings of wanderlust in people like me so that they do.

    Good luck in your work.

    • Dear NM, thanks for your insightful comments.
      The photos are taken with a Nikon D300, using natural light.
      My job as a travel writer is first and foremost to go out there and observe. The people I meet along the way always play an essential role in my portrayal of a place. Then we have to photograph what grabs our attention, and thereafter write about it. It’s a job, and somebody has to do it;-)
      Happy to tickle your wanderlust!

  3. Liked your site and the photos really are very good.
    They give you a sense of being there and also conveys so much in a picture.

  4. Stephan,

    Although I am very much against the taking of animals from the wild as well as the wrong action of not “returning them to the wild”, I was moved to understand the ending of a way of life such as the circus. The circus has brought much joy to many since decades past and it is a wonderful thing to witness the intelligence of animals and their willingness to serve man. However, it’s impossible to truly discern which are humane and which are inhuman. Because of that impossibility, I believe it is a good thing that as generations pass, that this way of money making come to it’s end. I pray those families of the circus find solace and other blessed ways to earn a living by bringing joy to others.

    Thank you, beautiful photos and great writing.

    Yvonne de la Vega

  5. “- There is no plan B. There never has been. It’s the circus or nothing.”

    For some reason, although I also have issues with the animals, I feel sad for the circus entertainers. Circus acts can be great. They were a hit when I was a kid.

    Thank you for this great post.
    Love the photos too!

  6. Love these! Beautiful color, great mood, each picture a lovely story in itself.

    Everyone should go to the circus at least once, as a child or as an adult.

  7. these photos are incredible. i recently found out my ancestors from long, long ago traveled with a circus for some time. i could have been swinging from a flying trapeze or riding an elephant.

  8. I was a circus baby myself (an acrobat in the “hiccup family circus” BI Hawaii). No elephants or big cats, but a whacky mixed brigade of estonian, hawaiian and french folk with dreams of comedic/acrobatic & slapstick entertainment. Sorry if that made no sense but your blog brought me right back to my good ol’ days of unicycles, juggling pins & aerial acts:)

  9. To all of you who share our fascination for the circus – due to how many of you who’ve expressed a fondness for the photos, we’ll be posting more behind-the-scenes-shots tonight! xx

  10. i hope i could get to see a real clown performing in a real circus show. those things are not that popular here in the Philippines.

  11. Pingback: 2010 in review | Photito's Blog – a travel journalist's confessions

  12. Awesome pictures…and I’d say you have caught the sense of nostagia — both in words and images — of these people who have no plan B. You’ve done it wonderfully. Thanks for sharing this.
    Additionally, there is a hyper-reality to your photos, a surreal sense of color that adds to the drama. Without revealing any secrets, is there anything that you do to the photos after you take them?

  13. Hi Jason, our circus story will be featured in one of Norway’s main travel mags shortly, which has lead me to believe that there is hope for the future of the circus after all. Judging by the fond attention our circus images have received, I see that the world is not yet ready to let the circus die!
    When it comes to the photos and their surreal appearance, well, one has great creative liberty when working with a subject matter as magical as the circus. A key word has been to subdue the colour saturation in ps.

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