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Work / Photography

Ciara J Albert captures carnival life in a kaleidoscope of colour and movement

Last year Portland-based photographer Ciara J Alberts packed up her things, bought a tiny trailer and spent the next eight months driving across America with her dog travelling with the carnival. “My childhood was spent with my family on the travelling carnival, Reithoffer Shows, which they continue to work for today,” explains Ciara. “My family has been in the carnival business for over 60 years. My days used to be full of travel, as well as all of the characters you’d expect from a carnival and an amazing amount of cotton candy.”

Rather than focusing on the people you might see working and frequenting the carnival scene, Ciara catalogues a series of visuals that exude the fair’s atmosphere instead. Through a cornucopia of tones and shades, we see pulsating glowing lights, the garish, greasy food, and the leftover mess of paper cups and plates tucked under rides. “Colour was the main unifying formal quality I was searching for when taking pictures for this series. The fair’s vernacular elements are filled with otherworldly colour saturation and began to almost function as stage sets when I was out shooting.” 

The cinematic element to some of the photographer’s images alludes to the performance of carnivals as a whole. Yet Ciara’s focus is on the quieter moments, after the main action has happened or placed some distance away. Rather than the brash, giddy excitement we might normally associate with fairs, she slows things down through a series of neat observations and colour studies. “The work is primarily concerned with my shifting relationship to the carnival,” says Ciara. “It’s the change I witnessed in how participants are now interacting with carnivals, the materiality and contracted nature of the carnival itself, and the different ways of presented it all within contemporary photography.” 

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Ciara J Alberts: Midway

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Ciara J Alberts: Midway

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Ciara J Alberts: Midway

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Ciara J Alberts: Midway

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Ciara J Alberts: Midway

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Ciara J Alberts: Midway

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Ciara J Alberts: Midway

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Ciara J Alberts: Midway