Mark Robson is a circus and performance photographer, documenting and taking publicity shots for many of the leading UK contemporary circuses. He first worked with Nofit State Circus in 1995, not as a photographer, but he was charged to blow up 2 cars for their show Autogeddon. Since then he has filled a wide range of roles within the company including performing, production, pyrotechnics, producing, photography and teaching, along with finding time to sit on the board of trustees from 2002 to 2015.
Robson’s new book, In Nofitstate, offers an intimate portrait of the company over the last thirteen years, distilling thousands of images down to a captivating series of behind-the-scenes and production photographs; over 230 stunning photographs dating from 2004 to 2017 capture the wonder, passion, and beauty of circus. Here Wales Arts Review presents a selection of images from the book, with text by Robson himself.
You can pre-order In Nofitstate by visiting its Kickstarter page.
2004, Immortal in Pontypridd; Performers – Gareth Bailey & Lyn Routledge
This photo can probably be attributed as the reason this book exists. Getting a shot like this of such an amazing act definitely kindled the beginnings of my passion for taking circus photos. It is one of the first photos I took of Nofit State and ended up being used as a poster image for a couple of years.
I remember going to the designers with Ali to see the design. They had used this photo but rotated it by 90 degrees we were like ‘but that is not the right way up’. It got used like that and I have seen it that way so much it now almost seems wrong when I see it like this, the correct way.
2007, Immortal in Cardiff; Performers – Shaena Brandel & Barnz Munn
I was on the board and regularly visited the tour to help out, support the company where I could and whilst there would also take photos. Shaena’s hoop piece was counterweighted by Barnz and was basically a double act. I wanted to get a photo that captured them both. I did eventually get it, but it took me lying on the floor during a show hoping an audience member would not fall over me.
2010, Parklife in Brighton; Duncan Milligan & Adele Perrott
I started working with Ali on Parklife, an outdoor investigation. I had a couple of roles, one was assistant producer but I was also there as a photographer to document it and do a daily photo blog. We spent a lot of time sitting in Parks. It was a wonderful experience with a great group of people.
2010, Parklife in Dorchester; Performers – Gemma Driver & Lee Tinnion
Early morning happenings were one of my favourite bits of Parklife and for me this photo captures the surrealness of them perfectly.
2011, Labyrinth at the Eden Project; Performer – Anna Sandreuter
My son was working with the circus at the Eden Project on his 21st birthday so they organised for him to go up on the balloon in the tropical biome. This is actually Adie one of the performers but it is the same balloon.
2011, Labyrinth at the Eden Project; Performers – Gareth Jones & Marco Fiera
Marco and Gareth out and about at the Eden Project as part of the pre show.
2012, Barricade in Newcastle under Lyme; Performers – Tiago Fonseca & Ellis Grover
Breaking the barriers between performers and audience is something that is important to Nofit State and capturing the effect Circus can have on an audience member is always great. I was responsible for the fire and pyros on this show as well as taking the photos so was inside the barriers and was therefore able to capture this moment of performers and audience together outside the safety barrier.
2013, Bianco at The Roundhouse in London; Performers – Andy Moore, Gareth Jones, Ashling Deeks, Augusts Dakteris, Blaze Tarsha, Elena Burani, Firenza Guidi, Howie Morley, Hugo Oliveira, Lee Tinnion, London, Nat Whittingham & Ruth Normington
Being part of the company has often given me a different view and opportunities. This is the company coming together just before the open dress (first show with an audience) for the touring version of Bianco. It was at the Roundhouse and myself and another photographer were there to get the photos needed for the programme and poster for the tour that year.
2012, Bianco at The Roundhouse in London; Performer – Elena Burani
This act was a gift photographically, just so beautiful and striking. I have a lot of shots of it, this is my favourite although it was another of my dress shots that got used as a poster image.
2014, Bianco in Cardiff; Performer – Freya Watson
I love this photo of Freya on the cloud swing with the audience looking up at her.
This photo also shows how Nofit State puts the audience right next to the action, breaking down those barriers, you are part of it not just watching it from a distance.
2015, Open House in Wolverhampton; Performer – Kevin McIntosh
2015, Open House in Barking; Performer – Eric Mc Gill
The most recent show I worked on for Nofit is Open House where we took high skill circus and put it in town centres. Often less than affluent town centres. Seeing corde lisse and especially swinging trapeze in a city centre is not a common thing.
I was production manager responsible for getting all the structures built and positioned ready for the shows, and then taken down and packed away afterwards ready for the next venue. During the show I was photographer again there to document the project. Multiple roles is really the norm in Circus.