I have 35 rolls done now and hope to get another 25 or so before I leave. I have the contact sheets and the work looks good. I won’t begin to edit yet but I have a sense of what the body of work will contain.

I have to think of a name for it. I look at the daily life of family circuses around Lima. It has nothing to do with the performances at night at all but about what the quotidian life of a family circus is like.

It also is not sociological. It is a mere glimpse into a world which is private by day and public at night.

It is not about spectacle but looks behind the magic curtain a bit. Something maybe playing with the word spectacle.

Something will come.


Today we went to two family circuses in the hills of El Salvador de Lima. Both circuses are owned by the Castaneda brothers, one known as Perno, the other Sonrisol.

Perno had recuperated from the day before and we went inside the tent. I was able to shoot wide open as it was sunny in Lima today and there was enough light.

Sonrisol was giving free tickets to school children for tonight’s performance as it is the last night they will stay in that neighborhood. They hope the children bring their parents in as well. There was a crowd of kids around him, The normal entry fee for a child is 2 soles and for an adult, 3 soles, roughly, a dollar.

I finished 7 rolls today and will take a break until Monday.


It is getting harder and harder to work the hours I would like. I know my limit is about 3 hours for shooting. Then I need to gather myself in and be quiet for a while. I don’t think I ever had the capacity for much more, mentally, but now I am more conscious of my limitations.

Yesterday the neighborhood we visited of San Gabriel, Las Lomas, Sta. Caterina, was very, very desolate.  It rests on the top of a very high hill outside of Lima to the north, above Villa El Salvador. There is no paved road, just a dirt lane with rocks. The construction of the living quarters is tin, wood, and cardboard. There is no running water, and electricity only at intervals in the night.  The circus itself was precariously positioned on a large pile of rocks in the middle of the road. While we were there, a lot of school age children came by asking enthusiastically how much the entrance fee would be and at what time the spectacles would start. The owner, Julio Caesar, told us that sometimes they did quite well in the far reaches of the city, as there is little other entertainment to compete with them, especially TV.

As the video camera bit the dust, quite literally (until today, when I was able to fix it), we couldn’t film the interview with the owners but we sat and talked enough that I understand a bit more about how they plan and choose their move to the next locale.

Today we travelled as far as Pachacutec, Ventanilla, and then Callao. The circus we had planned to visit cancelled on us, as the owner got drunk and fought with his wife. We will reschedule with him, once the hangover has passed and he is more coherent.

We did find a new circus far off on the way to Ancon, near the sea. It took us almost six hours of travel to get there and back. Only the young grandson was there but he gave us the phone number of his grandmother, who owns the circus. I will call her tomorrow.

Only one roll today. It better be good.


More or less the day from hell. You know, when everything goes wrong? We started out at 10am, spent three hours to get to the circus which had already moved.

Then we spent two more hours trying to find them.

The taxi ran out of gas, then got a flat tire.

The Hasselblad got stuck in the middle of a roll but, thank the gods, I had my Rollie.

Mauro dropped the video recorder and it stopped working.

And, at the end of the day, he and I had run out of money, and I mean totally out of money. We had to riffle through the sofa cushions at his parents’ house to get a ride home.

Five rolls, though; the last picture on the last roll of the circus owner’s son peeing by the tent.

Hope tomorrow gets better.


Today we started at 6am going to the most incredible outer reaches of Lima. We picked up Joel, known as Romano, at his circus and we visited four other family circuses spread out in various locations. One notable thing was the quantity of loose dogs in the streets. Each block had at least 5-6 loose dogs of all shapes, colors, sizes, and breeds running around willy nilly. Sometimes there were group of between 10-15, fighting and humping and generally entertaining themselves.

With Joel’s help, we found 4 different circuses and we will begin to shoot again on Monday.

I am really tired from the work this week. If I can continue at this pace, I may have 12 different circuses photographed, video interviews with the owners, and more by the end of the month.

I am going to take off a couple of days now and will write on Monday. I want to visit the Cathedral of Lima and see my uncle’s crypt. I also want to get dressed up and have a couple of Pisco Sours in good company.


Mauro, his father, and I went to San Juan de Lurigancho with our taxi driver, Cristian. We met up with Joel and his wife, Milagros, who own the Circo Romano. He also goes by the name Romano and she by the name of Daughter of Sabu. Both of them spoke to me about their respective personal histories as circus performers and the difficulties they have had with the authorities vandalizing their tents and ripping them apart. More will come about that issue which is very common among the family circuses I have visited so far.

Then Joel put on his makeup and outfit and performed his trapeze act for us.

Milagros is a flame blower and she performed her act as well. Very powerful day.

Mauro shot some video as I shot stills.

I  have shot 20 rolls in a week. I am happy with the work and with the friendships I am making with the members of these small circuses. They are welcoming, open people.


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.


At 10am my photo assistants/bodyguards met me at the camera store owned by Fernando Yague. He is a Japanese Peruvian photographer who owns a professional photo retail business. He is the only person in the world I would allow touch my film. We did a trade of sorts; I brought him 4X5 negative sleeves in packs in exchange for my film development and contact sheets.

Then we headed off to El Augustino, a part of Lima across the river Rimac and into a neighborhood called La Nueva Caja de Agua, which means The New Carton of Water. There, Sandra, the owner of  small circus, and her performers, were taking down their circus tent. Monkeys were leashed to the goal posts of an adjacent earthen soccer field. The trained dog, Ponki, was hitched to a remaining tent pole. Within minutes of my arrival with Mauro and Francisco, a crown of school age children surrounded us, curious about what we were doing and telling us stories. They pointed out the dead goat which lay in the middle of the tent. I had seen the goat looking fine on Saturday and I asked what happened. The children pointed to an older performer from the circus and whispered that he poisoned the goat. When I asked another performer what happened to the goat, he became somewhat nervous and said that it must have eaten something bad. There was no doubt in my mind that the kids told me the truth. I almost always believe a kid over an adult.

The dog performed his dances for me with the children looking on.

I ended up giving a short class to the kids on loading and unloading a Hasselblad. They were fascinated and understood quickly how it worked.


Yesterday was full of surprises.

The first circus was very small, a circular tent about 25 feet across, with small colored tents on the periphery which serve as living quarters for the family. The floor is dirt and piled inside the tent are wooden planks used as benches for the night performances. The circus is located on the outermost rim of San Juan de Lurigancho.

Ivan, the son-in-law of the owner, met with us and talked about the history of their circus and his life as a trapeze artist. He had worked in large circuses in Mexico and in Europe but was badly injured in a fall. Since then he works only with his immediate and political family to try to improve his life and that of his children. His children go to school during the day and Ivan is very proud that his son has never had to put on the makeup of a performer. He wants a better life for him.

I photographed Ivan and his monkey, Martin.


This afternoon I have my equipment ready and am off to San Juan de Lurigancho to meet and photograph a circus there. It may be that there are two others on the way where I can stop, make contact with the owners, explaining to them my intention of returning later.

One thing is that I have to be very flexible about regards the hours that the performers allow me access to them  to be photographed. They are working people and I need to be very respectful of their time with me and not overstep at any point.

I am not interested in the spectacle of the circus but the wizardry behind the curtains.

I hope the light holds out this afternoon as it is chilly and rainy…as usual during the winters in Lima.