Anderson and Low’s Best Shot
By Leo Benedictus, GUARDIAN.CO.UK
‘The physicality of the horse echoes the physical tone of the man’s body’
Circuses are quite disturbing. They are places of wonderment, but as children we were both terrified of clowns. It is all sweat and sawdust, and also like a parallel universe.
In 2006, we were invited to photograph a circus troupe in a purpose-built theatre on Blackpool pleasure beach. Our basic idea was to take these figures in their full costume and makeup, which is obviously slightly surreal, and place them in the middle of the amusement park that surrounds their theatre. They’re in a surreal location, as it were, but it’s the wrong surreal location.
We were introduced to everyone and then watched one of their performances, which we liked very much, before setting off to find locations within the amusement park. It was a very strange place, and catalytic for us in terms of how we would represent these people.
We did think it important that the environment should relate to the people we were photographing. So, in this image Sergei, whose stage trousers resemble cowboy chaps, is sitting on a carousel horse. Its physicality echoes the physical tone of his body. We researched the pose very carefully. It was a cold day, and he didn’t have the best English in the world, but he was very disciplined and friendly, doing exactly what we wanted. Performers and athletes, by and large, are really great people to work with because they are focused. They understand the importance of complying with requests.
For us, there is a kind of resonance to the final image. It has great initial impact, but we also find it very mysterious. We both see it as a milestone in our development.