In the late afternoon, we revisited Karen and Ivan’s circus in El Augustino. I sensed from our conversation on Saturday that Ivan was very reluctant to allow me to meet his wife and the others in the circus.

When we arrived, Ivan was gone and I met Karen for the first time. Her mother had founded their circus, although her grandparents were circus performers in larger circuses. She was born in their same circus. Her mother had died several months ago and they are determined to forge ahead, despite all the difficulties they encounter, honoring the memory of her mother.

Karen allowed me to take photos, though, after about an hour, she asked me if my photographs were to show up their poverty. I was happy to sit with her in her tent and talk about how I hoped my photographs would show something of their life and at the same time show the respect I feel for all people who struggle in life and move forward.

She told me then that, when her mother was very sick with cancer yet still performing, a photographer asked permission to photograph at their circus. Her mother, sick and very tired, gave them permission. The photographer appeared with a crew to do a fashion shoot with a model amid their humble workplace. It was humiliating for them. The photos were published in the newspaper and highlighted their poverty against the glamour of the model. I wanted to cry.

I still could cry.

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liese ricketts

photographer, closet writer, mother, grandmother, hermit.