“Behind the Big Top” by Ben Whitmore

Natalie Weber is the matriarch of Webers Circus, a travelling show that traverses NSW and Queensland on a rotating basis for 10 months out of the year and pays homage to the classic and timeless no-frills Circus’ that our Grand Parents would have experienced as children.

Contributor: All images used with permission for AFPS.blog by Ben Whitmore

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Natalie Weber ~ The Matriarch

Each performer is born into the life of a travelling performer, they’re proud of their tradition and they look after their own.

Having seen their show with my son, I was intrigued by this seemingly gypsy life and how it’s still able to exist in 2017. I introduced myself to Natalie, explained my intrigue and was invited back the following afternoon for their final performance in my home town to shoot some portraits and attempt to get to know the inner workings of their circus.

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As I arrived, Natalie said she’d introduce me to her daughter. I counted five daughters as introductions were made before I lost track of how this family were all connected. I met children fresh out of nappies and adults with children of their own, that were all in some way part of Natalie’s family. Some I met were adopted, not in a legal sense, but thrust under her wing buy like-minded Carnival owners from across the ditch who encouraged their children to expand their horizons and hone their performances in Australia.

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The Family

Webers’ Ringmaster, Jake Larkin is one of those fostered by the Weber Family. Like all the performers in the show, his role doesn’t begin and end on stage – it requires everything from selling programs on the street, to pouring coffees at intermission, manning the lights and the occasional rigging of apparatus. On the surface, a show for someone like Jake is chaos, but each person knows their job well and they slip and slide into each role like a well-oiled machine.

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The Big Top tattooed across Jake’s back is evidence of his passion for his craft and his hopes are ultimately set on big ticket shows in the States, but for now, he’s part of the team, fabric and family.

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Jake Weber ~ The Ringmaster

Jake’s passion is shared by the entire cast, from Kaneo the clown who is building his clown brand on Facebook during breaks, to the kids – the next generation of performers who, although are only whippersnappers, are already plying their trade and learning the ropes, both on stage, and behind it.

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Kaneo ~ The Clown

It’s perplexing to see someone who, during the show will take a death-defying leap of a trapeze over and over again, only to be met by that same person selling fairy floss at the gates a few minutes later, but also refreshing to see that from the small amount of time I spent behind Webers’ big top, egos seemed to be non-existent.

…….because their homes and hearts are on the road

This family of around 40 or so people, some performers, some family members who are merely here, because their homes and hearts are on the road with the Webers, are apt in rolling into a town, setting up their new homes for the fortnight in custom built caravans and entertaining the masses in traditional fanfare.

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home

These are the faces of a Circus…. those of a proud dynasty that out dates us all.

Behind the makeup, the costumes, the wigs and the curtain though, are young Australians that are receiving an education unbeknown to most. With the support of a family at each location coupled with the combined knowledge and wisdom of their peers, these kids, their parents and their parents just aren’t the “Carny Folk” that modern culture often perceives, just a family that lives on the fringe by seeing the country, meeting new people and channelling their energies into their performances and not into a perfectly curated Instagram accounts or high scores on Grand Theft Auto.

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These are the faces of a Circus – not Cirque du Soleil, not posed as freaks, but those of a proud dynasty that out dates us all.

About Ben

Based on Australia’s Gold Coast, Ben Whitmore is a documentary-style photographer who’s work largely centres around his home and Australian beach culture. Be it on the street, on the beach or in the water.

Ben Whitmore
Ben Whitmore ~ Queensland Photographer 

Having worked on two of Australia’s most iconic surfing magazines, Tracks and Waves Ben has been immersed in Australian surf and beach culture for over a decade and is most at home with sand between his toes and a camera in hand.

He works primarily with traditional film – namely black and white, which he believes offers a tonality that is unique when photographing the vibrant land and seascapes of the Gold Coast.

Behind the Big Top is an ongoing project that documents the lives and the people who have made performing their life.

Follow Ben on Instagram @bwchronicles or visit www.bwchronicles.com

Find more information on Webers Circus at www.weberscircus.com

Format information:

35mm: Nikon F100 + Film: Ektachrome 100vs (Slide Film)

120: Hasselblad 500cm + Film: Kodak Portra 160 & 400