New York Artist Wins Arnold Newman Prize for New Directions in Photographic Portraiture

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Steven Laxton captures powerful images revealing the lives of nomadic circus performers in El Salvador

Circo El Salvador

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Steven Laxton has been recognized as the 2012 recipient of the Arnold Newman Prize for excellence in portrait photography. Citing his photo essay of small family circuses that roam the rural El Salvador countryside, the Arnold and Augusta Newman Foundation named Laxton the winner of a $15,000 prize and distinction as only the third artist to be honored with the coveted award.

Traveling alone through El Salvador on several occasions 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 at http://www.circoelsalvador.com.

Laxton, an Australian-born artist arrived in New York via London in 2004. 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 work can be viewed at http://www.stevenlaxton.com. Information about his Arnold Newman award is available at http://bit.ly/zRzMFw. To contact the artist: info(at)stevenlaxton(dot)com or +1 917.332.7258.

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