Harley Gallery Circus Collection

Life in the circus

What might have seemed a fringe interest photography exhibition received huge press interest as it coincided with 250 years of the circus.

In 1768 the showman, entrepreneur and equestrian rider Philip Astley did something entirely new and utterly extraordinary. He gathered together jugglers, acrobats, clowns, strong men and bareback riders. Then, on an abandoned patch of land near London’s Vauxhall Gardens, he drew out the very first circus ring. This was the world’s first circus; every circus, anywhere began at this moment in 1768.

Peter Lavery is best known for his seductive advertising photography, but for the last 50 years he has been photographing circus performers around Britain. All shot on a plate camera, the work is an impressive collection of circus subjects. These intimately detailed photographs expose moments of ordinariness in extraordinary lives.

We offered a number of powerful images to select media, alongside detail of the exhibition and opportunities for exclusive interviews with Peter Lavery. Lavery has had an enduring interest and passion for the subject since dropping in on a small indoor circus in his home town of Wakefield in 1968.

Prev / Next