Photos & Projects

Photos from the Circus, 1956 – By Jordi Fradera

October 3, 2021

It must have been one night in December 1956 when I went to see the most important circus show in recent years. It was not just any traveling circus but a contest in which you could see the best of many circuses and which took place in the then brand new Palacio de Deportes de Barcelona (1955). I guess I was accompanied by José, a good friend of the family.

In Barcelona we had regular visits to circuses, I remember Circo Price who always set up his tent in the same place in the center of Barcelona, the Raluy circus continues to offer shows. Just today, I have seen his tent installed in the port. Of course, you don’t hear the roars of wild beasts, and it doesn’t smell like a “circus” anymore.

I was 13 years old and I prepared the family camera, a Leica IIIf with its standard 50mm lens (f: 2.5?) and a 90mm telephoto lens (f: 4?). As I expected the light conditions to be difficult I bought a 27 DIN (400 ISO) Kodak Tri-X film for the first time, I did not know if I would be able to take advantage of any of the photos later.

The show was impressive and I remember the performance of the trapeze artist Pinito del Oro who acted without a net and who was double in the film “Trapeze” from 1956. There were many more performances like clowns and animals some of which are impossible to see today.

I remember it all perfectly, and I want to show you the poster and the program downloaded from the net and of course my photos from that day.

Unfortunately I did not keep the negatives but I have a collection of the photos on 7x10cm paper that I scanned. The original quality was not very good and the paper size and scanning have made it very difficult to get anything particularly presentable, but they still attest to that memorable day

I think I remember that the development and the copies were made by my friend Enrique and I at his house. When we saw the negatives we were scared by the amount of grain that the TriX offered, but it is not so noticeable in copies as small as the ones I have kept.

Here are the photos of Pinito del Oro.

I hope that you have enjoyed this trip to the past and that some of you awaken memories of those shows and the unforgettable smell of circuses.

Thanks for reading.

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10 Comments

  • Reply
    Bob Janes
    October 3, 2021 at 11:18 am

    Impressive work from a 13 year old in what must have been challenging light.

    • Reply
      Jordi Fradera
      October 3, 2021 at 3:36 pm

      My family always carried a camera and that is why I became fond of photography, I remember that day as if it were yesterday and also that I waited to see the result of my daring with little hope, but there is the result. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • Reply
    Terry B
    October 3, 2021 at 11:54 am

    Jordi, what lovely memories for you. I’ve never ever heard of Polar bears as a circus act, and so many of them.
    Unfortunately, today, the use of dangerous animals is no longer permitted, but I well remember my visits to Dick Chipperfields Circus as a youngster and being on the edge of my seat when the tigers came on. You knew that these were very dangerous animals, but putting oneself in a cage with them called for a lot of courage.
    There are a couple of links to two acts, the balletic Brenda Lorenti with her incredible and magnificent high wire act, and the ubiquitous tiger act. I hope Hamish is OK with the links so you can see these.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CojPwIrfFrY

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxhnRpugFjw

    • Reply
      Jordi Fradera
      October 3, 2021 at 3:31 pm

      Thanks for your comments, surely many people miss those shows but things change and we only see wild animals on TV.
      As for the links I leave it to Hamish, I have seen them and I like them, especially the clip of the tigers.

  • Reply
    Fred Nelson
    October 3, 2021 at 6:37 pm

    Thank you for the wonderful pictures of a time gone by!
    Fred Nelson

    • Reply
      Jordi Fradera
      October 4, 2021 at 8:55 am

      Thank you for your comment, all that left and will not return but the beautiful memory remains.

  • Reply
    Dan Castelli
    October 3, 2021 at 6:54 pm

    These are wonderful! I was a little guy (5 yrs. old) when you made these shots.
    I’m happy to see your posters & the program.
    Like you, I grew up around a family of people who always had a camera on hand.
    We were lucky enough to have experienced a circus as youngsters. We had innocent eyes.
    Your photos are a powerful look into the past. We will never see this style of circus ever again. That’s not a bad thing as we become more aware of humane treatment of these magnificent animals.

    • Reply
      Jordi Fradera
      October 4, 2021 at 9:10 am

      True, everything changes and I am happy to meet people like you with experiences similar to mine.
      Animals, like any clown or trapeze artist, were artists who worked in a circus but with very different rights, perhaps they were happier than in a zoo cage and less happy than in freedom. Thank you for your comments.

  • Reply
    Graham Spinks
    October 3, 2021 at 7:56 pm

    Wonderful images and backstory. I remember when I was a boy there would be a parade through town when the circus arrived. The elephants would be in a line holding the tail of the one in front in their trunk. The baby elephants would be at the back.

    • Reply
      Jordi Fradera
      October 4, 2021 at 9:20 am

      Thanks. On one occasion, perhaps in the ’90s I was driving on a road on the Costa Brava and I was surprised to see several elephants in a meadow walking freely, that was not normal !!!! However, upon reaching the next town, the mystery was cleared up: first the posters announcing a circus and later the circus tent.

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