Photography in History · Photojournalism

History in Pictures

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This image is often mislabeled as simply: Circus Clown having a smoke break, 1958

It’s given name is:
The Dwarf and the Clyde Beatty Circus, 1958
by Photographer: Bruce Davidson courtesy Magnum Gallery

Circus is one of the first series of Bruce Davidson.
Sensitive and emotional images, starting with Jimmy Armstrong, called the « Little Man », the clown from the Clyde Beatty Circus.

Here is Bruce’s own thoughts when asked about this image:

There was a cold drizzle on that afternoon when I first saw the dwarf. He was standing alone outside the tent smoking a cigarette. His distorted torso, normal size head, and stunted legs both attracted and repelled me. He was dressed in a « Little Tramp » costume wearing a tux with tails, sporting a black derby, and holding a small bouquet of fake paper flower. He stood there pensively in the privacy of his inner thoughts. As I moved closer he sensed my presence but the click of my camera shutter did not seem to disturb him. He seemed to know that it was the inner moment I was drawn to and not his clown face or physical appearance. I wanted him to be himself and not act the clown because I was taking his picture. He was waiting for the musical cue that would send him into the brassy sounds and glitter of the wonderment world exuding from inside the big top.
He disappeared into the tent and I felt his loneliness and at the same time a certain power standing over a man less than half my height.
–  Bruce Davidson

Here are some other images from that series… and the final image is from 1967.

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