Floyd M. Wright (1906 – 1985) began his lifelong career in photography at age six working alongside his father, photographer Walter Burton Wright, in his Mason City, Iowa studio. Wright continued learning and honing his skills in this way until he attended The Chicago Academy of Art where he studied commercial art. After returning to Mason City where he opened his own studio, and married Pauline Breese, the two decided the following year, 1934, to follow the circus for six weeks taking these photographs of life behind the scenes. Five years later they moved to Chicago where Mr. Wright taught photography at The Chicago Academy of Art and started a family. It was probably there that he encountered Grant Wood and Thomas Hart Benton both of whom commented on the “effective use of strength and diffusion” in his pictures. Mr. Wright continued emphasizing depth in his photography with his subtle use of light and shadow. The following year found them living in New York where two more sons and a daughter were born. In 1951 while working in New York for Wheelan Studios he became associated with Harris & Ewing, the exclusive Washington photographers of important public and political figures, where he became director of photography. This gave him the opportunity to photograph President Harry S. Truman and F.B.I. Director J. Edgar Hoover, among many others.
Along with their obvious historic value, these black & white circus photographs can be seen to exhibit their own aesthetic achievement reflecting German Expressionism from the twenties, and to anticipate certain aspects of the film noir movement to come a few years later and future photographers of the 1960’s, some thirty years later, most notably Diane Arbus. What makes this even more noteworthy and of a somewhat poignant interest is that Mr. Wright’s second son, Bruce Wright, became one of Arbus’s most well-known and infamous subjects.
© 2018 by Brooks Wright
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