Photographer Matt Hoyle, known for his work in the advertising industry, has produced his own series of speculative photography, set in Barnumville, a fictitious town in Florida inhabited by sideshow performers. Barnumville is based on the real town of Gibsonton where the circus performers of yesteryear used to spend their vacation. Matt has written his own fictional story as inspiration for his photography and retouching for Barnumville.
Barnumville was once called Ladenworth, a port town filled with workers to support the shipping industry and their families. Towards the end of the 1800’s it became obsolete as Miami and Tampa were now the main ports of commercial entry. The town eventually fell into disrepair and became near vacant by the early 1900’s, save for a small handful of longtime residents. A circus ringleader from Connecticut by the name of Adelai T Zabier grew tired of traveling with his circus across America as he’d been doing for the past 36 years and longed to settle down. During his 4 decades traveling across America with his circus he befriended many wonderful and unique performers along the way –- all with special gifts and all who seemed to not quite fit into the “norm” of society. Upon retiring, Adelai had accumulated enough money to purchase a sizeable piece of property to settle on and had heard about the refreshing Florida air from many of the sideshow performers, as that is where they would holiday in the winter. It wasn’t too long before he found out about Ladenworth and decided to settle there and rebuild it as a home for him and whoever chose to live there. Free from judgement and free to start their lives over with similar minded folk.
Adelai sent word out far and wide to his many friends. An invitation to visit and perhaps stay longer if they chose. And it wasn’t too long before the town was populated with a fraternity of wonderful colorful characters. All there to make a life for themselves and to feel normal for the first time in a long time. The name of the town was changed to Barnumville as tribute to the once great showman Phineus T Barnum who Adelai had always admired. The town soon thrived and became a working community. The residents who were already living there seemed to embrace the newcomers with open arms, if only for the added commerce they promised to bring the town. The zoning was one of the only towns to cater for Elephants, Lion and Monkeys. And it wasn’t uncommon to see them with their owners walking the streets as regular as walking a dog. Adelai was elected mayor naturally and the town soon grew to be like many other towns of 1940’s America. Except maybe for the odd elephant or lion being walked by their owners, human cannonballs being shot over main street or, well, maybe it was unlike any other town anywhere. But the Barnumvillians went about their day to day life as if it were.
The freeway system was just linking towns and people like never before and Barnumville was an entertaining distraction for those who chose to detour to its parts. After the tragic murder of Adelai one night in his sleep the town lost its founder and soul. There was an uncertainty in the air of just how long they could exist in their utopia before everything became unraveled.