The tent in Pleasantville, Iowa.


The Culpepper & Merriweather Great Combined Circus is a traditional, nomadic one-ring family circus that lives on the road eight months out of the year.

Following a route through small towns, from the West Coast to mid-America, the close-knit troupe continues the tradition of the traveling circus. Unlike today’s overproduced theatrical mega-circuses, Culpepper & Merriweather brings together small-town communities in village-style events that many families visit year after year. These photographs explore the lives of the performers and the circus community at large, “under the tent” and on the road.

As a Japanese photographer living in America, I am interested in interrogating the cores of both of my cultures – cores that are permanent, unchanging, nostalgic, and in a mysterious way, true. Against the backdrop of our digital age, Culpepper & Merriweather represents an unchanging core in American culture, occupying a nostalgic space that persists alongside the mainstream.