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Review: Jill Freedman at Higher Pictures

Posted By Administration, Friday, February 22, 2013
Updated: Thursday, January 2, 2014

Circus Days

Through March 9, 2013


Best known for her street and documentary photography Circus Days marks Jill Freedman's third solo show with the gallery. Freedman's style recalls work of masters André Kertész, W. Eugene Smith, Dorothea Lange, and Henri Cartier-Bresson. This selection of over 20 vintage prints takes us back to 1971 and a trip Friedman took with the Clyde Beatty-Cole Brothers Circus.

For two months Freedman traveled the road with the circus troop and worked alongside the performers. She with her camera and they with their acts, animals, and performances toiled at grueling pace with two performances a day five days a week and one performance on Sundays. The body of work reveals the expected- performances with nine elephants under the bigtop, practice with the lion and his tamer, and painted faces of clowns. It is perhaps the unexpected, the unseen and uncelebrated that give a heavy truth to the lifestyle. Tight corners and lonely hours, heavy work and hard conditions. We feel this most litterally in images that catch big cats caged and sardine-squeezed elephants two to a truck. It takes little to make parallel between the animal and

human experience here and we feel the tole of spectacle fall heavy. Freedman's dedication to the troop can be felt most powerfully through candid images. With high-paced schedules there is little time for ones self and to catch a member in their own moment would be rare occurrence, but it is here that we find evidence of the intimacy she achieved with the performers. An image of two seated men below canopy who stare into the distance of their own quiet introflection speaks directly to this established rapport.

The prints themselves are dramatic- rich with sinking shadow and sharp with light. One of the most dramatic examples is at first hard to define- the main support of the bigtop where daylight pierces the tar-black interior illuminating only a few threads of light- the ropes and rigging of the temporary structure. Looking closer we see the hand and then visage of a worker adjusting the lines. All of the work is infused with a sense of honor and dignity; we see ourselves, the drama of our own lives, in parallel with these heroic figures.

For more information on the exhibition, please visit Higher Pictures

Review in Le Journal de la Photographie

New Yorker Review

About the artist:

Freedman has published seven books in her career and her work is held in such notable permanent collections as The Museum of Modern Art, the International Center of Photography, George Eastman House, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the New York Public Library, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, among others.

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