Lacey Terrell |  THE PASSING RING 1996-2009

The Passing Ring is an extensive portrait of one of the last nomadic tribes in America, the Culpepper & Merriweather Great Combined Circus. A traditional one ring Big Top show, with winter quarters in Hugo, Oklahoma, C&M travels everyday, for 8 months of the year. Over the past 13 years, I have had the fortune to photograph this Circus through much of California, Montana, Iowa, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Minnesota and Arizona. In addition to exhibiting, I am currently working on a book of photographs.

While seemingly familiar, the Circus is an elusive character, rife with complexities and contradictions. My photographs fall into a few categories: portraits of the many unique individuals whose paths have converged under the Big Top; images which highlight impressionistic, archetypal elements of this age-old spectacle; mundane moments in daily life on the road; landscapes of and around the ever changing circus village. By photographing all these elements and resisting only one visual style, I hope to illuminate the spirit of the Circus, yet in a way that strays from a traditional documentary.  It's against the odds that the show will survive in this era of technology, and the crowds are growing smaller. Nonetheless, Culpepper & Merriweather persists, moving quietly though the countryside and tiny towns west of the Mississippi, arriving each day just after dawn. Twenty four hours later, the caravan pulls away leaving barely a trace, save some imprints on the ground and in the minds of those who came to see the show.

Originally from Connecticut, I have been living out west since 1989. After receiving my MFA from California College of the Arts in 1998, I turned to the film business to be a Still Photographer on sets in order to make a living.  My project with the Circus had already begun, and this experience was a natural segue into the film world, as the atmospheres are very similar.  I was familiar with the notion of disparate individuals coming together to put on a show- an insular community that often travels together and who, for that time, becomes a family. I have been in LA since 1999, and as a still photographer I have worked for Fox Searchlight, HBO, Sony Pictures, Universal, Warner Independent Pictures, Lions Gate, Big Beach Films among others.

For more information, please contact Lacey Terrell at or visit