London photographer, by way of Sweden, Bertil Nilsson is a commercial and editorial photographer, but his personal focus is on dancers and contemporary circus performers. Bertil has worked for 5 years with circus artists throughout Europe and North America to explore and document contemporary circus from a novel perspective and the result is a book, Undisclosed, Images of the Contemporary Circus Artist. The book can be pre-ordered/ordered directly from The Undisclosed website. The book has an accompanying essay by writer and curator Laura Noble and a foreword by acclaimed circus creator Daniele Finzi Pasca.
Though the portraits are in the nude, the viewer is not distracted by it, in fact, the nudity presents the human body in it’s most amazing form–at it peak. In my opinion, something not easy to do well. “The project represents a unique snapshot of the circus community, exploring a multitude of acrobatic and aerial disciplines through a common visual thread.”
I was first exposed to contemporary circus in 2003 and I have been fascinated with this new art form since. Contemporary circus builds on the old traditions of the circus while fusing it with theatre and dance practice. In photography I find that circus as a subject matter has mostly been explored in a nostalgic fashion or portrayed as a novelty.
Through meeting circus artists I gained an insight into the sort of commitment required to train for circus. I started working on Undisclosed as a long-term project to create a document of contemporary circus practice. I collaborated with a mixture of performers but I removed all the attributes of performance – the stage, the lighting, the costume and the makeup – to focus on their physicality and the process of creating circus.
Over the course of the project, my understanding of circus, and how it could be explored visually, grew. Through collaboration with the artists I found ways to choreograph circus for the camera, experimenting with movement, exposure times and my own location within the space. In Undisclosed and in my work generally, I endeavour to capture the extraordinary potential of the human body to exhibit flexibility, strength and agility, a fraction of which most of us realise.