Each summer, Edward J Kelty, a Manhattan banquet photographer active from the 1920's through the 1940's, would load his enormous camera into a small truck and follow the circus, first up and down the East Coast and eventually throughout the United States. His extraordinary photographs captured the spirit and atmosphere of the big top, and with a "poof" of flash powder preserved mesmerizing images of the horse wranglers, acrobats, ticket-takers, candy butchers, teeterboard tumblers and sideshow exotics that populated the colorful world of the traveling circuses.
Kelty was the Cecil B. DeMille of circus photographers, at times assembling as many as one thousand circus performers for spectacular group shots. Particularly popular were his annual "Congress of Freaks" photographs, which gathered together the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus sideshow attractions-from Ajax the sword swallower to Eko and Iko, the "ambassadors from Mars"- for a "class picture." He sold these group photos - as well as prints depicting individual performers, circus lots, and big top interiors - to circus owners, performers and fans.
A Flash of Light chronicles the life and work of EJ Kelty from his war years through the depression, up to his unheralded death in Chicago in 1967.