A few months ago, I traveled to Atlanta for a little getaway and some rest and relaxation with the family.
While there we happened upon the circus train. GUYS THE REAL LIFE CIRCUS TRAIN!
Naturally I turned into a five year old.
I was jumping up and down and screaming “THE CIRCUS TRAIN! THE CIRCUS TRAIN!” (No lies ask my family)
Side note: My fondness for the circus train came from this book I got in my kids’ meal at Burger King in the mid eighties titled: (drum roll please) The Circus Train.
It is a story about how a train breaks down in a small town on their way to the big city. The train manager is big mad about it, and fretting about being late to the next gig. Little Johnny asks him why they don’t just set up here and do the circus in the small town tonight.
The tightrope walker low key shames him about it until a clown chimes in with “Why Not?”
The circus people come together. They have their show and the town loves it. After the show, another train happens to come in the nick of time. The circus people board and ride off into the sunset.
Years later the town still talks about the day the circus train came to town.
I don’t know why but I’ve always loved that story.
Fast forward to me jumping up and down about the train.
I legitimately wanted to run up on there and see the fire eater, and the bearded lady. I didn’t know if I could go on or not so I just eagerly snapped photos of it from the outside.
I saw a few men come off with containers of food.
Turns out YOU CAN JUST WALK UP ON THE TRAIN AND GET FOOD!
Well you know what I did.
I marched on up mouth open and wide eyed on the food car, and ordered a burger.
Maybe I was a little eager, but how often do you get to eat on the circus train? Especially since this is the last year of Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus. I mean..... this really is my last chance.
Being the typical Virgo that I am, my eyes turned to the cook. I wondered what his life was like and how it was living and cooking on the train. A new city every couple of days, you know living that road life. His face and eyes told a story. I wondered if people were kind to him since he is the cook, and not a performer. I wondered if people overlooked him, or were they truly grateful for his cooking skills and feeding them. See? Typical Virgo. Overanalyzing everything. This is what we do.
While the food was cooking I went to the car to get my camera.
I showed him my business card and told him “I promise I’m not a creep. I’d like to take your portrait.” He chuckled and agreed.
What happened next was pure magic.
This is my favorite part of the creative process. I’ve said before in other posts about how photographers are sort of an archaeologist of emotion. I can always tell if you are comfortable with me sticking my camera in your face.
I watched Rick transform from timid to “I got this mode.” By the third frame I had the shot that I wanted.
I saw him, and he knew that I really saw him. Photography is so much more than having a “good camera.” Technical skills, and equipment are great, but connection to you subject is key.
When people feel validated, and that they can trust you, they will open up to you. They will show you their soul. I haven’t seen Rick since, and probably won’t ever again. But I want to thank him for letting me show the world how cool, and awesome he and his job really are.