Circus is an impressive coffee table book that brings together the best work of one of cycling's more maverick and enduring photographers (as we first announced here).
Professional cycling is a circus, as anyone who has had the privilege of experiencing life behind the scenes will confirm. Nowhere are the parallels with a circus more evident than on the Tour de France, where for all those involved, 'like the clichéd clown, under the facade it's lonely, isolating'.
However, the book is about more than Le Tour: other races can have at least as much glamour and intrigue – but less 'soul sucking'. This book promises a photographic record looking 'inside the world of professional bike racing'. It delivers 'a distillation of many years of shooting racing stories, from Grand Tours to small one-day events ... from the mechanic to the team owner'.
Like with any worthwhile coffee table book, you are given a lot of good pictures with a modicum of explanatory text. However, if you want to know more about how the photographs were taken you will be disappointed, as you won't find any technical information about f-stops or shutter speeds.
What I like about such books is that you get to see all those shots that magazines and websites won't (or can't) give space to: they want the traditional shots of the big moments in a race, but a book like this gives you the more unusual racing shots, as well as a glimpse of events before and after the race.
Take, for example, a photo that I don't expect to appear in the cycling mags any time soon: Mark Cavendish taking a pee against a garden fence before a stage of the Tour of Britain. When asked for permission to use the picture, the reply was: "No problem, as long as you can't see my c*ck."
Some of the pictures may well appear in a magazine, but probably without McMillan's pithy observations: the caption accompanying another photo of Cav, this time struggling in the 'bus', notes that 'for a 'non-climber' Cavendish would still smash any amateur cyclist'.
McMillan has also produced some iconic product photos over the years, although the only one used here is that of an original Campagnolo tool kit: it appears on the inside of the front cover and is worth savouring. It also appears inside the rear cover, in case you overlooked it the first time.
I was interested to see that McMillan was using film cameras less than 10 years ago, but only where he deemed it appropriate for the environment – such as six-day events. This gives him the opportunity to tell the story behind a few contact sheets – which will be as alien as vinyl records to some people today.
McMillan also spends some time explaining why he has become jaded with much of today's professional racing, from the smokescreen of photographers embedded in a team to the staging of the necessary 'epic shots' in the showers at Paris-Roubaix. However, his passion has been rekindled by events such as the Transcontinental Race.
Circus is one of the first books to come out of new publisher Velodrome, which became involved after successful Kickstarter funding (as reported here). Velodrome is 'committed to the highest quality books for ... the discerning community of cycling enthusiasts worldwide', and it is an impressive start to the business if you are in that target audience.
Although you can't save money (or weight!) with an eBook version – you can spend more if you wanted, on one of the 150 signed versions in a slipcase for £100. More details here.
Fascinating selection of memorable, artistic and unusual pictures from a photographer who clearly knows the sport
If you're thinking of buying this product using a cashback deal why not use the road.cc Top Cashback page and get some top cashback while helping to support your favourite independent cycling website
road.cc test report
Make and model: Circus by Camille J McMillan
Size tested: Hardback, 240pp
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
From Velodrome Publishing:
Whether shooting from within the peloton, or partying with the fans on Mont Ventoux, the pictures in this beautifully produced volume reveal some of the many stories cycling photographer Camille Mcmillan has witnessed. Sometimes intimate, other times aggressive, always beautiful, his images are unique.
This stunning photographic volume, with many never-before-seen reportage images, spans some two decades of life at the forefront of world cycling. Documenting a year in the life of the professional cyclist, we are taken from trackside at Ghent's famed Six-Day races, across the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix and on to the tifosi of the Grand Tour climbs. Circus takes us from behind-the-scenes in riders' hotel rooms, onto the seat of a speeding "moto" and into the celebratory anticipation of a roadside bar as locals await the blurred chaos of the peloton. Camille, formerly editor-at-large of Rouleur Magazine, captures the pain, heroism and humanity of this most challenging of sports.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Author: Camille J McMillan
Publisher: Velodrome Publishing
Date: April 2016
It is not cheap, but you do get a lot for your money.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The opportunity to see photos that rarely appear anywhere else.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? If cycle racing is up their street, yes.
Use this box to explain your score
Fans of the genre will love this book, but I appreciate that it will not appeal to everybody.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding