“Les Pêcheurs de Rêves” (The Fishermen of Dreams) is a small, family circus based in France. The company consists of a husband and wife duo, Vincent and Florence, who play the roles of Za and Krapotte, two married clowns. In the performance, they make a parody of their own life and of marriage itself. Krapotte, like Florence, is the strong one in the couple, while Za (Vincent) does anything to please her.

Real life mixes with fiction in this show, and their belief in their artistry is strong. For example, Florence and Vincent married under a “clownesque regime,” a name they invented to demonstrate their faith in the characters they have created and continue to interpret. For them, the circus is not just a job or a pastime but represents something deeper—the ability to dream.

Inspired by this creative couple and guided completely by my instincts, I plunged into the sound and meaning of their name, “The Fishermen of Dreams.” I embarked on an oneiric journey, letting the story flow through me and slowly reveal itself to my camera. I became so involved to the point of wanting to take part in their narrative; I wanted to understand how it feels to be truly free, like Vincent and Florence. In a society that forces conformism, theirs is an unconventional, even courageous, lifestyle.

With them I experienced the deep meaning of being part of a “circus family.” I saw the curiosity of the couple’s children left free to express itself in a universe of their own creation; I witnessed them take lessons from the school of life. I understood the huge commitment and the immense labor that goes into the preparation of each show. I learned how important constant confrontation can be—how it’s essential to work through one’s unspoken feelings. Finally, I faced the simultaneous beauty and difficulty of living so authentically, in such close and constant contact.

For me, the camera is a tool that allows me to live the life of others. Here, photography became my medium to connect to their world. The photograph becomes a wide open channel that permits me to become carried away by my passion for humankind.

This family of “dream fishermen” have happy souls and retain a proximity to a world that we are unfortunately forgetting. After all, the circus is a confirmation that humanity still exists in our hyper-technological world. In the space of the circus, connections are made thanks to words that come out of people’s mouths, eyes that look and make contact, and faces that dramatically express those emotions which all too often remain hidden in the “real,” everyday world…

—Stephanie Gengotti

This is the second chapter of a long-term project about family life in contemporary, itinerant circuses. Every chapter tells the story of a different family. Explore the first chapter, Amori Nomadi.

Gengotti’s project was singled out by the jury of the Emerging Talent Awards 2017. See all of the inspiring projects from this year’s 50 talents!