Life is a Circus Ring

By Gilmar Smith

Cirque De Soleil portrait

Life is a circus ring, with some moments more spectacular than others. - Janusz Korczak

A couple of months ago my photographer friend Jay Cox put me in touch with Shelli Epstein, one of the stars of Cirque du Soleil’s “Luzia” show. Shelli and her co-performer Naomi Zimmerman were a dream to work with. They have a magical way of connecting with the camera that is not forced, not posed, just beautiful and natural. They just walked in and started making all these amazing poses with their bodies and make them look like there was no effort at all. I could imagine myself losing a tooth or two just by trying one of those once!

But this shoot almost never happened! Jay Cox, a great photographer friend of mine was kind enough to refer them to me. I coordinated the shoot with Shelli, who plays the Butterfly in the show, but sadly the timing didn’t work out. I left the country for the UK for a couple of speaking engagements and to teach a workshop.

Twenty-something days later, I reached out to the performers again to see if we still had time to plan our photoshoot. It was their last week in town, so we had to rush and plan everything as fast as possible.

No matter how much time you have to put together a photoshoot, the essential part is having a great team. I am lucky enough to have met amazing people throughout my photography career. People that worked with me once, we clicked and have since built a beautiful friendship and business relationship. These colleagues are the only way I pulled off this shoot.

My dear friend Valeria Angelino, who is the person behind all the fabulous makeup and hairstyles in my photoshoots, Randy and Jack Zweifel who have been a fantastic support and own the most magical prop house I've ever seen, Spectacular Themes, that served as the location for our shoot. At that point, the only thing we were missing was the wardrobe, and I knew it had to be something epic!

Sometimes you just have to go for it. I took the opportunity to contact a costume company I have been dreaming of working with, Winfield Murdock Creative Works. They make costumes for Disney, Universal, Studios, Broadway, etc. To my luck, they agreed to be on board in the project.

The day of the shoot came. We had everything we needed but we only had a short window of time available for the actual shoot. The pressure was on! I went to pick up the costumes that morning, ran to the prop house, took over one of the offices for hair and makeup, moved things around to build a set with the help of yet another Chad Maali. Finally I set up my the lights and all my photography gear. I was so happy to finally take over this circus dedicated corner and take some photos at the shop, and especially getting this carousel horse I have been in love for a while, in the frame.

I was in awe with the costumes Winfield Murdock provided to us. It was a real dream come true to work with him. Valeria did an amazing job with hair and makeup as always.

Cirque De Soleil Costume by winfield murdock

As always, at some part of the photoshoot, I bring out my Platypod Ultra to take a few shots with a different perspective. I put my Nikon Z7 on my Platypod Ultra and placed it on the floor right in front of my subjects, making sure they were filling up the frame. These shots never lack impact and always end up being some of my favorites. Here are some Behind the Scenes and the final shots.

Shelli Epstein and Naomi Zimmerman Portrait

Gilmar Smith is an Orlando-based photographer, content creator, Photoshop addict & social media junkie! Visit her at and be sure to follow her on Instagram!

Noah Christensen