• Photographer
    Matt Hoyle
  • Prize
    1st Place / Fine Art/Portrait
  • Date of Photograph
    March 2009

Matt Hoyle's "Barnumville" is a series of black and white portraits of sideshow performers. Barnumville is a fictitious town in Florida set roughly around the 40s and 50s, inhabited by sideshow performers of all shapes and sizes. Matt photographed more than 30 sideshow performers and physically intriguing characters, many are in the few remaining sideshows in America today.


This is the story of a fictitious town in northwest Florida named Barnumville.

It was founded by Adelai T Zabier, a circus ringleader who grew tired of traveling
as he'd been doing for the past 36 years. During his career he befriended many wonderful & unique performers along the way – all with special gifts who seemed to not quite fit into the “norm” of society.

Upon retiring, Adelai purchases a sizeable piece of property to settle on. He'd heard
about the refreshing Florida air from many of the sideshow performers so he decided to settle there and build a town, free from judgement. He declared the town "Barnumville"
as tribute to the once great showman Phineus T Barnum.

Adelai sent word out far & wide to his many friends -- it wasn’t long before the town was
populated with a fraternity of wonderful, colorful characters who began to feel "normal"
for the first time.

The town thrived and became a working community with zoning laws to cater for Elephants, Lions and Monkeys; it wasn’t uncommon to see them with their owners walking the streets as regular as dogs being walked.

After the tragic murder of Adelai one night in his sleep the town lost its founder and soul.
There was an uncertainty in the air of just how long they could exist in their utopia before everything became unraveled. This story takes place a year after Adelai's death. It's a lovely October evening & there's a slight chill in the air…

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