"Circesque" is a unique invitation to the reader to get to know the unknown life of circus people. Photographer and artist Christian Tagliavini develops a unique illustrated book that explores the world of the circus and takes a look behind the exciting scenes. "Circesque" reveals the haunting glimpse of the people behind the make-up, elaborate props and exclusive costumes
"Circesque" invites the audience to tell the story themselves. The curtain rises and the show begins. Acrobats, trapeze artists, high-wire artists, escape artists, jugglers, contortionists: the whole ring is present and represented. But a closer look reveals some unusual details: unforeseen events, unavoidable falls, disappointments. People full of emotion who gracefully pick themselves up again, dust themselves off and start all over.
The portraits are free of the clichés of circus life and reveal the human being behind the archetype. The images reveal the innermost feelings of the protagonists as they climb the platform, put themselves on the line and take the risk: all under the watchful eye of the audience. Costumes and props complete the role of the immaculate circus performer. They form a mask that conceals the real self. Tagliavini designed and, for the most part, made all the props himself. To achieve the refined aesthetic of the series, each model's costume was tailored and dyed to perfection.
The work marks a turning point in Tagliavini's work to date. Unlike previous series, it cannot be pinned down to a specific time and cannot be attributed to any particular style or movement. It is the result of a slow and instinctive process of creation: the patient product of slow photography.
A conversation with Christian Tagliavini
teNeues spoke to the exceptional artist and asked him about his inspirations, challenges and his individual creative process. Find out exciting background information on the illustrated book "Circesque", which will be published by teNeues Verlag on 28 June. Also, take a look behind the scenes and watch exciting videos of Tagliavini's set and models.
There’s a lot of attention to detail and craftsmanship in your work. How do you go about the planning and realization of your photographs? What challenges do you face?
My series keep me busy for a year or two, a long time, and I have to stay motivated for a long time. Deciding on a job that then lasts two years is highly problematic. In the end, I choose what I prefer to personal taste. I work on the one that stimulates me the most and that gives me the greatest challenges and learning opportunities.
For the purely creative part, sometimes the pressure is a good companion because it spurs me not to have time for doubts and allows me to act much more instinctively. On the other hand, if I have a lot of time, doubts creep in and I risk being contaminated. When I go on to create the executive and technical works, I need calm and time instead.
If the intuitive phase can be very fast, then for the executive phase I work slowly, from the moment of the idea and the first sketches, I move on to the executive drawings. I work a lot in advance to prepare the shot, almost everything is ready on the day of the shoot, the only unexpected part comes from the models and their expressiveness. I don't have the ability to improvise, I'm not a jazz player but rather I prepare and train leaving only a small variable and surprise with the models.
How do you choose the scenes, costumes and backdrops for your images?
I use photography as a way to freeze the stories that I imagine. Sometimes the intuition, the idea, is built slowly, other times it is a flash or it becomes concrete and appears while working, or I look for it by studying the forms and creating a flow of thoughts that can lead me on the path of intuition. I usually sketch or take notes to try to fix what I “saw” in my mind as much as possible because I'm afraid of losing it in my memory. I am a predominantly visual person and therefore I make sketches.
The kind of photography that I make is called "one shoot movie" or "mise en scene". I study the image before shooting and make most of the composition before, the only part left to improvisation is the model and the feeling she/he brings to the story. First I focus on the main idea, I start realizing sketches and define the general rules of the project. Then I start drawing the single pictures including pose, set composition, details, and colors. While I’m working on the construction of the set, I search for the people to play the main character in the image. In the past, I used to stop people in the street, in a museum, at the airport, or at the grocery shop. Today I also use social media. This is the more difficult and amazing part of my job, I call it "people watching".
For each scene imagined, every aspect is planned with fine precision. And every detail is conceived, designed, and created in-house. Nothing is left to chance. From the smallest of buttons to the most complex prop, everything has its place.
Everything is then custom built to fit the model and the project. It is always the result of careful research, I design and create them to make my idea, all the details, tangible. For example, the clothes were designed to measure from the models, the fabrics selected and where necessary dyed, the buttons designed and made to measure.
What inspires you to create staged photographs, often based on historical and cultural topics?
Before getting into “mise-en-scène” photography I “tasted” different types of photography such as landscape, architecture, street photography, etc.. Discovering staged photography, I realized that I could express what I was missing in reality: my creativity and my work. I like working with my hands and feeling the materials: their texture, their perfume, and their noise; this is a sensorial experience during the work that I like. I then use light to write stories that I have in my mind. I use the knowledge of previous series and I try to add always something new to preserve my interest and curiosity.
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