World of Wonders

World of Wonders

by Jimmy Katz, Dena Katz
     
 

Working in brilliant color and with a large format camera, photographers Jimmy and Dena Katz spent three seasons following the last authentic traveling side show in America to create this elegy to a uniquely American art form. Their powerful, poignant, and respectful portraits of aging performers and young recruits reveal disappointment, despair, and tenacity played…  See more details below

Overview

Working in brilliant color and with a large format camera, photographers Jimmy and Dena Katz spent three seasons following the last authentic traveling side show in America to create this elegy to a uniquely American art form. Their powerful, poignant, and respectful portraits of aging performers and young recruits reveal disappointment, despair, and tenacity played out against the tawdry glitter of the fairground. These images, along with anecdotes and commentary by the performers, are brought together for the first time in World of Wonders.

Sword swallowers, fire eaters, freaks, and illusionists have excited generations of Americans. Today, only this one troop persists, led by the legendary Ward Hall and his partner Chris Crist, who mounted multiple extravaganzas for Ringling Brothers more than fifty years ago. As the photographers listened to hard-luck stories and felt the power of hard-lived lives, they were moved by these men and women who continue to perform despite changing times and tastes.

The Katzes’ widely acclaimed book about the surreal effects of human action on the salt flats of Utah, Salt Dreams (powerHouse Books, 2006), featured images deemed “spectacular” by New York Times critic Grace Glueck. With this powerful and unsettling new work, Jimmy and Dena Katz continue to explore the postmodern aesthetics of American subcultures.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

A perusal of this elegiac pictorial of what claims to be "the last authentic traveling sideshow" quickly answers any questions pertaining to why circus sideshows really are a thing of the past. From the looks of it, the illness is terminal. In 48 luridly colorful images, the Katzes, whose well-received 2006 collaboration Salt Dreams made the Great Salt Lake look even bleaker, here document a different dystopia and its sad, obsolescent demimondaines: sword-and-razor swallowers, aged dwarves, down-at-their-heels road warriors. There is no Chaplinesque pathos here. This is a realm that is classic David Lynch, with inhabitants leering, Dementor-like, out at you with heavy-lidded facial expressions worn into a permanent grimness. In a world where showmanship trumps truth, the urge to record the "last" of anything isn't about simple documentation. The irony that the voyeurism sideshows have always encouraged is turned around and projected onto this weedy, weary place and is realized more by the shock value of the Katzes' work than any pictorial dynamism. VERDICT Both a cautionary tale and a memento mori, the anachronisms throughout this slim book have more appeal than do the aesthetic qualities of the photographs themselves.—Douglas F. Smith, Berkeley P.L., CA


—Douglas F. Smith

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781576874929
Publisher:
powerHouse Books
Publication date:
05/12/2009
Pages:
84
Product dimensions:
11.20(w) x 13.00(h) x 0.70(d)

Meet the Author

Born in New York City, photographer Jimmy Katz spent more than a decade based in Utah as a mountaineer and Nordic skier, photographing the desert and mountainous terrain. He often contributed photographs and articles to climbing publications about his expeditions and first ski descents in remote areas of the world. Back in New York, he established himself as a well-known music photographer, shooting over 250 recording projects and more than 60 Jazz magazine covers. Although he lives in New York City, Katz is still closely connected to the American West, where he often finds inspiration for his personal projects.

Dena Katz was born and educated in Moscow, in the former Soviet Union. She met Jimmy Katz during his expedition to the Soviet Pamir, and their relationship developed after she had climbed the highest peak in Europe. Shortly thereafter, she moved to the United States and pursued post-graduate East Asian studies at Columbia University. She has been a conceptualist and collaborator with Jimmy Katz on a number of photographic projects.

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