Last summer, New York City-based photographer Jeaneen Lund spent five weeks documenting the first and only Icelandic traveling circus on their first tour. Images from her project,”Sirkus Íslands,” are currently on view at Mengi in Reykjavik, Iceland. We asked Lund about the Sirkus, and how she plans to use images from the project to advance her career in photography.
Photo District News: What is Sirkus Íslands all about?
Jeaneen Lund: They have three different shows—one for kids, one for families, and a slightly naughty, tongue-in-cheek, adult cabaret. Sirkus Íslands is homegrown, animal-free, and sustained by the communal operation of a 24-person family. The performers handle all of the tasks—they raise the tent (even during extreme wind storms), prepare their own meals, sell popcorn and cotton candy, perform two to three shows a day, and bring 100 percent of their energy into each show. Over 22,000 people have attended their shows. Iceland’s a small country of 328,000 people, so they were quite happy with the turnout!
PDN: How did you find out about it?
JL: I met an amazing woman (Margrét) in 2012 when I was living in Iceland. We grabbed coffee while she was in New York last spring, and she told me she was organizing the first tour for Sirkus Íslands. Through Karolina Fund, a crowdfunding source based in Iceland, they raised enough money to buy a massive circus tent.
PDN: So this was a personal project, how did you promote it?
JL: Yes, this was a non-commissioned personal project which I felt very passionate about. In February 2015, I contacted several galleries around Reykjavik and told them about my project. My goal was to do an exhibition just before Sirkus went on their second tour, so locals and tourists could know about it. I found a great gallery in the middle of Reykjavik called Mengi, just off the main street. They loved the PDF I sent over and agreed to do a three-week show.
I also contacted the in-flight magazine of Icelandair (the Icelandic Tourist Board helped sponsor my flight) and the magazine asked me to write a photo essay of my experience. They published four pages with fourteen of my photos in their July/August 2015 issue.
The city of Reykjavik contacted me, too. They want to display 24 poster-size prints of my Sirkus photos on Skólavörðustígur, which is their main shopping street in Iceland. These photos will be in display cases for one month this summer.
I’ve been talking to book publishers about turning “Sirkus” into a book, and I plan on doing gallery shows in NYC and LA.
PDN: Do you plan to use it to help you get assignment work?
JL: I have a completely new body of work from this photo series, so I’ll use this to get assignment work. I decided to do the whole project with available light to keep it organic and true to the moments with the performers and the environments. These images would be great for all sorts of advertising clients. My commissioned work is a mix of music, fashion, portraits and travel, and I also love documenting sub-cultures. This Sirkus series is a good mix of all of these.
PDN: Who are some of the clients you work for?
JL: Nike, Microsoft, Nintendo, Vidal Sassoon, L’Officiel, OUT, Teen Vogue, Complex, Beautiful Savage, Bust, Nylon, SPIN, Vice, Untitled, EMI, Sony, Capitol, Mexican Summer, Snoop Dogg, Daft Punk, Adele, Florence Welch, Diplo, Katy Perry and Kesha, and more.
I also create spontaneous editorial shoots and pitch them to magazines. The industry has changed so much over the years and I’d say, for me, 8o percent of my work is magazine editorial, and 20 percent advertising.
I also direct music videos and fashion films. I made a short fashion/fetish film with an Icelandic composer, which won a Jury Prize award in the ASVOFF film festival and premiered at the Pompidou in Paris.
PDN: When did you start shooting? When did you become a full-time “pro”?
JL: I grew up in Hollywood and I started taking photos of my friends in high school when we were out at the goth clubs in the ’90s. I took a photo class during my senior year in high school and I was obsessed! I also took one class for a semester in junior college. I worked at a camera rental place in Hollywood for a year and assisted photographers, which was my real school.
A year later, I flew to New York and met with magazines and started shooting for them the following week. I think that was in 1998. Back in the 1900s! I continued to assist for a couple more years and I became a full time “pro” after that.
PDN: What are you working on now?
JL: I just did a shoot with a talented young artist for Sony music in NYC, and I’m in Iceland now taking press photos of the world famous Shaman Durek, and doing a fashion shoot. Then I’m off to Paris to shoot a band’s promo/album packaging.
I was recently interviewed about a photo I took of Glenn Danzig. There’s a Facebook page called “The Same Photo of Glenn Danzig Every Day” and they chose my photo for the page. I had no clue about this, but it has over 36,000 followers and it’s pretty entertaining!