I was making a portrait one day and the backdrop fabric reminded me of the side of a tent. That made me start to imagine seeing a series of circus performers photographed in their own surroundings but lit as though in a studio.
A little while later, I stumbled across the information that it was soon to be the 250th anniversary of the modern circus, and the man who had started it all was born near to where I grew up. Phillip Astley was an inventor, an equestrian and a bit of an entrepreneur. In 1768 he started putting on shows in Waterloo in London where people could come and watch "feats of horsemanship", he then threw in some clowns, jugglers and dancing dogs and the rest is history. He settled on a diameter of 42 feet for his performance circle or 'circus' and ever since then people have been using the same size ring.
I looked for characters who embodied the passion and endurance that is needed to train for that kind of lifestyle, but also there needed to be a story in their eyes. Most of the sitters that ended up in the final selection turned out to be young, school age trainees. I think that's because there was something magical and innocent in their postures. And some of them were so daring too, doing handstands on the walls of the roof, twelve stories up over the city.
After shooting in a few different places, I realised that I really needed the graphic aesthetic that we eventually found in Ulaanbaatar. I loved the sculptural shapes that the young contortionists made and the backgrounds became starker, more like the majority of my work which is made in a studio. The flat bright skies and the bare walls became my studio backdrops and the contorted bodies became my still lives.