The photograph shows two circus clowns doing a shaving act as part of a minstrel show. The "customer", wearing a white shirt and vest, sits on a chair with his head tilted towards his right. His tongue is out, giving an expression of exaggerated danger that would be suitable for only a clown. Shaving him is a slender white man dressed in a suit and black-face. The "barber" holds a gigantic shaving blade that is completely comical in size. The audience would hope that the barber is able to use his shaving razor with the utmost precision and avoids harming his customer, who appears to be quite nervous. The backdrop is formed by a simple white, canvas sheet and is probably the back of the performance arena.
Developed in the 19thcentury, circus clowns became one of the major performances in every circus group. Using slapstick comedy often in the form of a mime, they portrayed the life of the typical village idiot. As such, they often exaggerated daily activities to create something familiar, yet comical. A shaving scene in which the barber uses a huge blade was a common demonstration in these types of acts, as seen in this photograph.
From the collection of Fred Bodin of Gloucester, Massachusetts. Fred was a long-time resident and well-known photographer of Gloucester and had one of the best private collections of New England nautical photographs. Fred was a photojournalist who graduated from Syracuse University and worked for Yankee Magazine. Mr. Bodin passed away in 2016, and HIP purchased his collection from his estate.