Travelling alone through El Salvador on several occasions, Steven Laxton was recently recognised as the 2012 Arnold Newman Prize winner for excellence in portrait photography. Steven is only the fifth artist to be honored with the $15,000 prize, awarded for his photo essay of small family circuses that roam the rural El Salvador countryside.
On several trips to El Salvador in 2011, Laxton captured still and motion images of six multi-generational families that travel in entirely self-sufficient convoys without an itinerary to their impromptu performances. In these poor and remote areas with no cinemas, theaters, museums, galleries and where few people have televisions or cars, this entertainment is one of the only cultural experiences for the locals. El Salvador has the highest homicide rate of any country in the world, major gang violence, a continuing drug war and a mentality of fear left over from the Civil war. As a result the circus is also one of the few things the people feel safe leaving their homes for after dark.
Most evenings the perimeter of the circus tent is vigilantly guarded by military and police armed with AK47's to unsure those that attend feel safe. Communicating entirely by pantomime (Laxton doesn’t speak a word of Spanish), he earned the trust of the gypsy entertainers and vividly documented their lives in the award-winning Circo El Salvador project, which can be viewed http://www.circoelsalvador.com.
Laxton, an Australian-born artist whose work has been published in a wide range of news and lifestyle media, arrived in New York via London in 2002. By 2008, he was named one of the 15 Rising Stars of International Photography by American Photo Magazine and in 2009 Communication Arts recognized him as a "Fresh" artist.
In addition to the Arnold Newman prize, Laxton’s El Circo project was awarded in the 2012 POYi (Picture of the Year International) Feature Story category and was included in the prestigious 2012 PDN photo Annual. In September, El Salvador’s national Museum of Art will feature a major solo exhibit of Steven’s Circo project, which will then tour nationally.
Steven Laxton’s portrait and urban landscape work can be viewed at www.stevenlaxton.com. Information about his Arnold Newman award is available here. To contact the artist please email: firstname.lastname@example.org