Woman Crush Wednesday: Brittainy Newman
Interview by Neil Camposuelo
After becoming the first Cuban circus clown to perform with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Joan Fernandez Cabrera, 30, saw that dream disappear this past May when he learned that the 146-year-old circus closed its curtains for good. He and 500 clowns, acrobats, and stage crew members were left scrambling for new jobs at the end of an era. Motivated by the American value system, he looks for success back in his home country of Cuba by joining the Cuban National Circus.
Your No Funny Business series exemplifies a body of work that requires extensive research and continued involvement in the story. Can you take us to your process on how you were able to find, mount and complete a project like this?
Growing up I have had a strong interest in the life of performers, specifically those in the circus, for most of my life. After hearing the announcement that the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus was closing forever, I was immediately concerned how longtime employees such as the popcorn vendors, the animal trainers, and the clowns would adjust their lives and careers into different venues. Although difficult, I did not shy away from this rare opportunity to tell an important story. I approached this project with genuine enthusiasm, vigor, and resourcefulness.
Making meaningful work is entirely personal and it changes over time as your life and priorities do. It’s not fun and it’s certainly not easy. It is a slow, meandering process. There are 168 hours in every week and how I spent those hours was a crucial, fundamental part of my capstone process experience. If I wanted to achieve my goals, the schedule I’d given myself for my final delivery had to be realistic and manageable. I learned that adding more hours to my workday did not correlate to higher productivity levels, but rather, created an unsustainable and dangerous work environment for myself. I created weekly and semester plans of actions in order to gain a sense of responsibility by creating self-generated deadlines in hopes of helping with this very issue.
As we all know Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus were shut down mainly because of declining attendance and years of animal rights protests from PETA and other activists. After this project, have you ever thought or are you in the process of expanding this work into a more broader area of discussion? Do you think the Cuban circus community will have the same fate as the history of the traditional circus are slowly fading away?
As a Cuban, the circus is a lucrative career path and a rare opportunity for Cubans to make real money on the communist-led island, so I would hope that the Cuban circus community will not have the same fate as those in the US, but you never know what tomorrow will bring. In regards to expanding this work, I would like to turn this project into an interactive website where viewers can engage with more content such as 360-video and individual photo galleries. If possible, I would like to incorporate other performers and employees of the Ringling Bros. Circus and hear their stories of the past and what their goals and hopes are for the future.
Having a background in photojournalism. In your own opinion, what are the differences between photojournalism and documentary photography?
As society began to marvel at the rise of great magazines such as Life and Time, in the 20th century new phenomena called photojournalism transpired. While documentary photography focused on relative truths, subject matter, and an overall theme, photojournalism evoked human emotionally impacting images from those who viewed. Documentary photography is meant to be savored, looked at for a longer period of time, and ultimately inspire the viewer to ask questions. Photojournalism, however, has an urgency for factual consumption. These images are used to fill up newspapers and magazines, but similarly, convey emotional responses. Photojournalists are seen as activists, immersing themselves in the story that may unfold around them, while documentarians focus on the reportage of the event and photograph truths as a symbol.
Describe your creative process in one word.
If you could teach a one-hour class on anything, what would it be?
I would teach the importance and responsibility that comes with editing audio and visuals together and how powerful and moving this can be when done well.
What is the last book you read or film you saw that inspired you?
Film: 8 1/2 by Federico Fellini, Book: Memories, Dreams, Reflections by Carl Jung
What song do you play the most in your music library?
What They Do by The Roots
How do you take your coffee?
Free and to go.