Between 2000 and 2002 Michal Chelbin produced a compelling series of portraits of circus performers in Israel, Italy, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. This work developed into her latest series Strangely Familiar, featuring portraits of small town performers from England, Israel, Russia and Ukraine taken between 2003-2005.
Her choice of subject matter pays tribute to Diane Arbus and so too does her use of natural light, black and white printing and the stark lack of embellishment. Yet Chelbin's performers are captured in casual settings outside of their working environment in the clothes worn to perform, which creates an atmosphere that is both public and private. The viewer is invited to examine the difference between young and old, big and small, experience and innocence, odd and ordinary, glamorous and common, the tension of which is heightened by Chelbin's use of a tight, claustrophobic composition and square format. Chelbin was recently nominated for The Schweppes Photography Prize at The National Portrait Gallery.