July 2, 2016
Of the things we love, some stand out as inspirational and can lead to a livelihood we may never have imagined for ourselves. A chance encounter with destiny stems from a moment that reveals unique and revolutionary potential in what previously appeared timeless and unchangeable.
It is a love of contemporary circus that inspires French-born Alexandre Galliez, and a very different art that enables him to capture it.
Galliez is a digital photographer who specializes in circus images. He is drawn to every aspect of the circus discipline, and speaks of the extraordinary execution of movements that dare to reach beyond the limit of what is physically possible. “There is a nice balance between risk and smoothness in the world created by these artists,” he says, and notes that circus performers seem to operate “outside of the rules” of earthly reality. “Circus has a special language that is really different from other disciplines like dance. In my photos I want to show how the movements are equally fluid and precise, and how they are highlighted in the show and on stage.“
Contemporary circus appeared on the international scene at about the same time digital photography came into vogue, and Galliez was of the age to inherit both. His photographs lured me to an arts festival in Budapest, and his love of capturing these images led me to inquire of his motivation.
The Greatest Show on Earth
Galliez was just entering his double-digit age when he first witnessed a circus performance. Living in a small French town, he observed the artistic world through a televised variety show, Le Plus Grand Cabaret du Monde.
Immediately captivated by the circus spectacle, he enrolled in a circus camp in his home town and immersed himself in the basic skills, and diabolo juggling. Although he could not have known at this time, the art that was to become his true passion was not the performance of circus, but the capturing of the performance, and that inspiration ripened over time.
As a youth, Galliez recalls, “My father took a lot of pictures and I enjoyed helping him develop his film rolls in a darkroom.” As he grew, Galliez began to explore the potential of the new digital camera technology, and when he moved to Montreal (Canada) as a young adult, he joined the school newspaper team and began to take pictures more regularly.
Land of Opportunity
Montreal is a circus destination, and there could be no better setting for an artist in pursuit of it. “We have a venue dedicated to the circus arts as well as some of the leading companies and circus schools, and these local companies are known throughout the world,” he says. “Other companies from around the globe come here to perform, and that gives me the chance to photograph many different shows and artists.”
In Good Company
Galliez has photographed Montreal companies including Les 7 doigts de la main, Flip FabriQue, Throw2Catch, and L’impro Cirque, which he describes as a mix of circus performance and impro match (an improv game). He has also captured images of Circa from Australia, Midnight Circus from Chicago, and Spiegelworld from Las Vegas. He devotes an average of 15–25 hours a week to circus photography and has captured images of the most famous French Canadian company of them all, Cirque du Soleil.
Stepping Outside of the Ring
As artists, we bring our work to the public because we love what we do. But there is often a secondary agenda—for example, to educate the public by bringing awareness to an artistic lifestyle or a creative movement. I asked Galliez, how does your art change public consciousness?
He responded that people familiar with vintage circus might find the contemporary trends difficult to comprehend. “Circus still has this label of animals in a tent and clowns with too much makeup and a red nose. I want to show images of contemporary performance, so there is definitely an educational aspect to my work, to bring awareness to this renewed discipline.” For that reason, his photographs are used expressly for publicity. “More people are touched when the photos are used in magazines, billboards, displays, and season programs. I do hope that my photos help to inspire people to go to see more circus, and especially for the public to see that a contemporary circus show is quite different from the other disciplines.”
His next step may be to attend the international festival La Mercè in Barcelona. When not shooting photographs at events, he enjoys observing the public reaction to his local companies, which he says is always different according to where they perform.
© 2016, Cynthia Albers, all rights reserved
All photos in this article © Alexandre Galliez
Alexandre Galliez lives in Montreal, Canada