LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, BOYS AND GIRLS... welcome to the big top blog of Douglas McPherson, author of CIRCUS MANIA, the book described by Gerry Cottle as "A passionate and up-to-date look at the circus and its people."

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Circus picture of the year?

Here’s the winning picture, by Dutch coach and choreographer Vincent Michels, in this year’s Federation Mondiale du Cirque’s photography contest for which the theme was World Circus Day.

The striking zebra-striped image was chosen from 115 entries from 19 countries. But could it have been better?

To my eyes, the matching costume and tablecloth effectively blends the imagery of traditional animal circuses with the look of more contemporary human-skills-based forms. Personally, though, I think the picture's impact could have been intensified by cropping it along the top of the table and down the right-hand table leg, or even along the innermost table legs to left and right. The bottom margin would also benefit from being cropped at the edge of the mat. The black rectangle above the table, the glimpse of background to the right and the strip of floor to the front add nothing, and provide a needless distraction. By focusing exclusively on the contortionist and the zebra-print tablecloth the stripy motif would be emphasised and the image would be more ambiguous - teasing us with the illusion that the contortionist was performing beneath or between some real zebras.

Having not seen the runners up, I'm not knocking the judges' decision. I'm just saying. But the photo will be used on the cover of the Federation's 2015 calendar, so there's still time for the picture to be cropped. Trust me, guys, you'll improve it if you do.

The contortionist is Li Ling, a student at the private acrobatics school Corpus 
Acrobatics and the shot was taken at the World Circus Day celebration hosted by De Leeuw Circus Events in Amsterdam, The Netherlands in April 2014.

My pick from last
year's runners up.
Click here for last year's winner.


  1. I find this abstract rather lifeless and minimally engaging. I have to wonder if the photographer has inside connections. Yes, cropping might render it less vacuously random. It's really so far out as to be a no-show. It does little to offset my impression of some of last year's picks being strangely lifeless, too.


    1. More on this when I receive the pictures of the 11 other finalists.