A cir­cus in his home

Pho­tog­ra­pher Francesca Bala­guer-Mer­cado cap­tures a cir­cus owner’s res­i­dence with characters straight out of his col­or­ful trav­el­ing show


“The Ma­jes­tic” is a se­ries of pho­to­graphs taken in the won­der­land known as The Gre­gan­gelo Mu­seum in San Fran­cisco, CA. It was a project that started from the de­sire to take por­traits of lo­cal cir­cus per­form­ers in the Bay Area. Af­ter send­ing numer­ous e-mails to var­i­ous cir­cus troupes ask­ing to pho­to­graph them, I only re­ceived a re­sponse from one— Gre­gan­gelo’s Ve­loc­ity Cir­cus.

I im­me­di­ately re­sponded to the e-mail, which was quickly fol­lowed by a phone call from Gre­gan­gelo Her­rera, the founder and owner of Ve­loc­ity. Greg said he wasn't a big "phone per­son" and would rather meet me in per­son to dis­cuss the ideas I had for the photo se­ries. I was quite re­luc­tant when he said we should meet at his home to go over the de­tails. I was liv­ing in San Fran­cisco then, and had my fair share of, let's say weird and some­times scary ex­pe­ri­ences meet­ing up with com­plete strangers. But there was some­thing telling me to go for it. So, just for safety, I left a note on my study ta­ble say­ing I was to meet this guy named Gre­gan­gelo Her­rera, along with his ad­dress. Just in case.

I ar­rived at Greg's res­i­dence, and the minute Greg opened his front door, ev­ery­thing made sense. En­ter­ing his home was like land­ing in a dif­fer­ent world. I was in­stantly in­spired.

The con­cept for the se­ries comes from the idea that this vi­brant world called “The Ma­jes­tic” ex­ists within Greg's home. Each im­age was in­spired by a spe­cific lo­ca­tion in the house. Var­i­ous el­e­ments like col­ors, style, and mood all in­spired me in cre­at­ing vis­ual nar­ra­tives for spe­cific rooms and spa­ces around the house. I would look at a space and think, "What kind of char­ac­ter would hang out here? What would their story be?" And that's how I would build my con­cept.

I think one of the main rea­sons why “The Ma­jes­tic” was suc­cess­ful was the way Greg, as a fel­low artist, trusted my cre­ative vi­sion. He al­lowed me to cre­ate freely while be­ing in­spired by his creations. He let me in­ter­pret his art through my eyes. I had the free­dom to style each area as I pleased, use the models, makeup, and wardrobe I be­lieved would best tell the story.

In the end, I felt like I was given the op­por­tu­nity to really de­velop my per­sonal aes­thetic and style dur­ing this project. ‘The Ma­jes­tic’ se­ries has won awards in the pres­ti­gious In­ter­na­tional Pho­tog­ra­phy Awards and has been ex­hib­ited at the Kim­ball Gallery of the de Young Mu­seum in San Fran­cisco, CA.

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