“It’s Showtime! See weird, wonderful, wild and bizarre. The strangest show on earth: the Headless Woman, four-legged dancers, pygmies, Spider Girl, the Girl Who Changes Into a Gorilla, sword swallowers, the Human Blockhead, and they are all ready to meet you. Bring your kids, bring your grandparents, bring your in-laws, bring your outlaws, bring your parole officer, and bring everybody inside. If you’re in line then you’re in time!”
-Tommy, World of Wonders performer
Photographs Do Not Bend Gallery presents photographs of the last classic traveling Side Show in America, World of Wonders. Between 2006 – 2008, photographers Jimmy and Dena Katz followed this Side Show troop to New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Florida to document, and voice record the performers.
This project resulted in the book, World of Wonders, which colorfully portrays these young and seasoned performers (PowerHouse Books). The exhibition will feature respectful portraits of the co-owners of the Side Show, Ward and Chris, plus Sword Swallowers, Fire Eaters, Freaks, Snake Handlers and more.
Ward and Chris own the Side Show act. In 1946 Ward started in the sideshow business at 15. He bought his first sideshow in 1951 and has continued to this day. In 1966 Chris became Ward’s business partner at the age of 18. Both had one big thing in common, they knew they wanted to be in the circus as young boys.
Ward Hall with Banners, Florida, 2007Jimmy and Dena Katz, Ward Hall with Banners, Florida, 2007
“Sure, I’m a professional liar. I seem to have a natural talent for that. You heard me talk the front of the show. Do you believe you are going to see a real two-headed woman? It is my job to convince these people that they are going to see these things. I could take a Volkswagen and make you believe it is a Rolls Royce. If I had another life I’d like to be a trial lawyer or perhaps an evangelical TV minister.”
Katz is an audiophile, apparent in his passion for Jazz music. PDNB will feature a few interviews recorded by the artists during their travels with the World of Wonders Show.
At the age of 16, Jimmy Katz took the opportunity to see the great Jazz musicians, Art Blakey and Thelonious Monk, perform at Carnegie Hall. This led to years of collecting thousands of jazz records. His photography career began with portraits of the famous jazz musicians. He and Dena have produced many album covers and photographed 300 plus jazz recording sessions. Their images have also been placed on cover pages of major jazz magazines.
PDNB Gallery will feature some of these jazz portraits along with the World of Wonders exhibition. This particular show is a must see for all jazz lovers. The exhibition will include icons Sonny Rollins, Keith Jarrett, Ornette Coleman, Cassandra Wilson, Dianne Reeves, Dave Brubeck, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, Dizzy Gillespie and more.
Jimmy and Dena Katz will sign copies of their book, World of Wonders, at the artist reception.
Other books by Jimmy and Dena Katz: JAZZKATZ: Jazz in New York, and
Salt Dreams. Photographs from the Salt Dreams series are included in the permanent collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
In 2006 Katz was a recipient of the Jazz Photography Award by the Jazz Journalists Association.