Photographer Brian Howell spent three years following the likes of Wrathchild, Backwoods Militia and Cheerleader Melissa for One Ring Circus (Arsenal $19.95), a tribute to the human rodeo they call professional wrestling.

More than 100 b&w photos by Howell captured the poignancy of the minor league wrestler's lowbrow predicament. Athletic but underpaid men and women are trapped within a near-clandestine community, hoping to become triumphant artists in a theatre-of-the-brutal. The fix is always in; and the grind is daunting. Few have the guts to pay their dues, travelling from community hall to high school gymnasium, taking the bus, dreaming of being discovered, praying they won't get maimed.

Once upon a simpler time, Toronto had Whipper Billy Watson; Vancouver had Gene Kiniski. Now the step-over-toe-hold has been replaced by the lurid insult. The half-Nelson has been replaced by the crotch kick. But it's the same sad game. For every Hulk, Rock and Chynna, there are thousands of wannabes, inveigling their mothers to help them invent bizarre costumes, snarling into mirrors.

Howell was similarly fascinated by the copycats when he attended impersonator conventions throughout North America for Fame Us: The Culture of Celebrity (Arsenal $21.95), a collection of photographs of people dressing themselves to resemble celebrities. He also attended the real-life wedding between a man who liked to impersonate Arnold Schwarzenegger and a woman who liked to impersonate Shania Twain. Howell's photos are augmented by contributions from Stephen Osborne and Norbert Ruebsaat. 978-1-55152-228-9


One Ring Circus (Arsenal 2002) 1-55152-132-6-
North America for Fame Us: The Culture of Celebrity (Arsenal 2007)

[BCBW 2007] "Photography"