The slides of Sverre "Bex" Braathen combine a "Passion for Circus" with the skills and artistry of photography at its finest.
Images were captured in the saturated colors of Kodachrome slides and date from the early 1940s to the late 1950s as well as black and white film in the 1930s. Set within the context of the entire Braathen collection, these images provide insight to what happens just outside the canvas flaps of the circus tent.
The content of the photographs range from the careful unloading of the trains, to rare outdoor performances, to performers (and sometimes their guests) relaxing in the "back yard" of circuses large and small.
Acrobatic artists of the high wire and trapeze pause to have their pictures taken in wardrobe.
Wearing exaggerated costumes, pantomiming with oversize props, and sporting plenty of white face paint, these comedic performers mug and pose for the camera.
Some of the earliest photos in the Braathen slide collection, these shots of promotional posters document the routes taken by Ringling Barnum, Hagenbeck-Wallace, and other circuses throughout the Midwest during the 1930s and 40s.
Feats of skill and daring performed high above the ground by glamorously-attired aerial artists.
No circus is complete without an audience! The Braathens, members of the Circus Fans Association, and other circus aficionados get up close and personal with the performers.
The United States reached peak nostalgia for an imagined Western frontier during the mid-20th century. With strong roots in the Wild West shows of previous decades, circuses fueled this cowboy fever by showcasing equestrian tricks and rodeo spectacles.