West Hills | California
The Big One Is Back!
Circus Vargas is one of the last remaining touring circus acts, making a year-round circuit around the West Coast, mostly through California, with plans to begin touring nationally. Their next biggest competitor was Ringling Bros. Circus before their big top came down for the last time in 2017 after years of struggling to hold onto its audience.
Circus life has never been easy but it has become even more trying in recent years as people prefer to stay home and stream their entertainment or opt for predictable experiences in multiplex theaters. And as with Ringling, Circus Vargas has cut live animals from their program, which was once a major draw for attendees. All of these things combined have put a strain on what was a once-booming industry, and those who have chosen to continue on do so as much out of passion and tradition as survival.
I had the pleasure of spending a few evenings with the cast and crew of Circus Vargas when they came through San Fernando Valley, shooting a live performance and documenting the breakdown of their big top as they prepared to move to their next location. I had already been to see their show before and so I came prepared to shoot it, but there was simply no way to prepare for the breakdown, as the whole production went from fully set up to loaded into trucks within a matter of hours, with a dozen things happening at once and the lighting and the space itself changing by the minute. It was one of the most challenging and enjoyable shoots I’ve done to date.