Brandon and Brian Cedeno, Ecuadorian foot jugglers, enter the big top of Circo Vazquez in Mexico City. After her first experience living and performing with the circus, Ainsworth completed a master’s degree in social anthropology at the University of Cambridge.
Ainsworth, who is based in London, received a National Geographic Young Explorers grant, and returned to Mexico in 2011 to take photos at seven different circuses.
She continued: “I was looking at the art of transformation—I wanted to show how the performers were in real life.
In her current work, Ainsworth continues to explore themes of performance around the world. Kenny and Romy Cedeno, Ecuadorian gymnasts, extinguish a flaming hoop after their flying act at Circo Vazquez. National Geographic Young Explorers grants help cover field project costs for hard-working, passionate, creative individuals with great ideas.
You can see more of Emily Ainsworth’s work on her website and watch a video of her NG Live! What a remarkable, authentic and brave journey you have undertaken here Emily thanks for taking we the viewer into the world of the circus. Circus life may be a tough life, but it is a legacy for many families, for whom performing is a way of life– their craft, their art, and a way to make a living. Although I enjoy a circus performance, I sympathize with the individuals working and performing, with the ‘roaming’ lives they have to lead! National Geographic has also presented us with some of the most talented, bright, and created people.
As a journalist, anthropologist, and dancing circus princess, Emily Ainsworth has spent the past few years capturing the hidden lives of performers who’ve tantalized audiences for decades.
We only ever get a glimpse at them under a bright spotlight, but through the National Geographic Young Explorer’s Grant, Emily gives us a unique window into what she calls a world of “blood, sweat and sequins,” where most performers have “generations of circus blood pumping through their veins” and many artists “die in the ring, rather than of old age. With the help of NG, Emily was able to work with seven different circuses around Mexico City—Circo Hermanos Vazquez, Circo Atayde, and American Circus to name a few.
With more than 200 circuses in Mexico, traveling with them gave Emily an opportunity to see Mexico from a different perspective, from the eyes of those growing up outside of mainstream society. Backstage, the animals live as family members; even the elephants get to break bread at the dinner table.
Despite reverence for their talents, and even though many of them set the standard in competitions like the Monte Carlo World Championships, the lives of the  artists remain an enigma.  Because they travel and often don’t set down roots, there’s a lot of distrust between the locals and the performers. The fact that they are looked upon as outsiders means that performers experience considerable prejudice. Despite these accusations, Ainsworth feels a deep connection with these people and plans to go back as soon as possible. Four years ago, when she first joined the circus, it was difficult to stay in touch across the continents – very few performers had access to phones, and no one had an email account.
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Society Field Inspection 2016: Gulf of CaliforniaDescribed by Jacques Cousteau as the "aquarium of the world," the Gulf of California in Mexico is threatened by coastal development, climate change, and other human activities. Support National GeographicWe've supported more than 11,000 grants to scientists and others in the field.Learn more about our work.
Two years after being discovered deep in a South African cave, the 1,500 fossils excavated during the Rising Star Expedition have been identified as belonging to a previously unknown early human relative that National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Lee Berger and team have named Homo naledi. With at least 15 individuals of all ages and both sexes represented, the find adds an unprecedented amount of information to our understanding of early human evolution in Africa. In addition, the absence of any other animal remains or large debris in the fossil chamber strongly suggests that these non-human beings intentionally deposited their dead within this cave.
BANABA ISLAND, Kiribati—Asbestos dust covers the floors of Banaba’s crumbling colonial houses, buildings, and schools.
To date almost 700 planets have been found that orbit other stars, and the numbers keep climbing.


First, it’s worth noting that a couple different techniques exist for finding extrasolar planets, or exoplanets. Once an exoplanet is confirmed, even more observations can help astronomers paint a more accurate picture of the world and its chances for habitability. For instance, from a confirmed planetary transit, the resulting dip in starlight can tell astronomers the size of the planet and how far it orbits from its star, which can in turn allow scientists to estimate the planet’s surface temperature. Other planet-hunting techniques can then give mass, allowing for calculations of the planet’s density and thus best estimates for its composition.
Piecing together clues such as size, density, temperature, and atmospheric contents can help scientists figure out just how much a given planet resembles Earth.
For the most part the actual travel to and from La Palma went smoothly, which was surprising in itself.
One particular issue we had was that one of the mirror segments of the primary mirror was misaligned.
While producing a radio documentary about Mexican circuses for the BBC in 2008, she showed up at the Circo Padilla and was handed a costume and sent to the stage to dance. She then pitched the idea to National Geographic of continuing her documentary work in Mexico. Recent projects include documenting traditional magicians in the slums of India, as well as samba schools in Rio de Janeiro. We focus on the disciplines we’re known for, as well as emerging fields that matter most to understanding, and improving, the world we share.
It would be much better if national geographic would allow just a few full screen pictures but I guess you need to subscribe for that. Emily somehow manages to capture the color and texture of their everyday lives, using a camera lens to uncover what lies beyond the circus veil.
Owners are keen to ensure that they pitch their tents on land large enough to allow the animals to ramble around with a fair degree of freedom, and animals often receive better treatment than performers. But since there’s not much money in the industry now, circuses can’t afford to transport all of their equipment or animals abroad.
The public attacks they face are vitriolic, damaging and false: performers are regularly accused of being lascivious and dirty, stealing family pets, having head lice, or seducing married women. She wants to document the slums in Delhi, India—where many traditional performers and magicians live—before they are demolished.
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To learn firsthand what's going on in and around this marine treasure of global importance, the National Geographic Society sent its top scientists and officials to the region in January 2016. Colon of the University of Florida tried out two possible answers to that question—and one of her projects may help us better understand the chances of finding more truly Earthlike worlds across the galaxy. Both of Knicole’s targets were found because they transit, or pass in front of, their host stars as seen from Earth. But the data can include false positives, requiring followup observations to confirm that the objects are actual planets.
That’s because some of the starlight that reaches us would have been altered as it passed through the alien atmosphere. The trip involved four separate flights, crazy taxi drivers, and driving up the steepest mountain I’ve ever been on! As an undergrad I got to spend a summer doing research at Arecibo Observatory [in Puerto Rico], which was amazing because I got to visit the largest radio telescope in the world and see it in action. The telescope’s primary mirror is composed of 36 hexagonal components, and all those components are supposed to be aligned so that they focus the incoming light to one location. I hope Knicole will succeed and it will still be possible for me to witness this in my lifetime.
NG magazines are sold on every street corner in Mexico, so their lives being featured in association with NG gave them confidence that their culture was valued. The close-knit, hierarchical culture Emily became a part of was just as riveting as the shows they put on every night.  Even the circus had its social order—performers associated with performers, riggers with riggers, the two rarely mixed.


Parents often train and imagine futures for their children in the ring, even before they start to walk.
Many individual performers, however, do go overseas, generally performing under a family name.
Now that Facebook and Skype have become standard, it is much easier to feel connected, and to know what’s going on. They toured the desert islands off the southeastern coast of the Baja Peninsula and they listened to presentations by more than a dozen experts, including several whose Baja California research is funded by the Society.
There are so many twists and turns going up the mountain that you just *know* you are going to go flying over the cliff on one of the turns … and yet, by some miracle, you get to the top of the mountain safely! Being at the GTC was completely different, though, because I was at one of the largest optical telescopes in the world and this one I got to use for my own personal research! There were some minor technical issues to deal with, and I had to make some quick decisions on how to handle those issues or else we may not have been able to acquire any data during my trip (which would have been a huge disappointment of course). However, the night of one of our observations one of the segments was misaligned so that, on the images we took, the light from that mirror segment was not sent to the same location as all the rest of the segments. Those circuses usually take about 50 people (usually local boys in their late teens willing to do some very intensive labor for a bit of extra cash) to transport overnight. For example, performers from the Vazquez Circus would take their name with them when going abroad. Once you are there, you know that the 24+-hour trip it took to get there was completely worth it. I got to decide what target to look at, where to look, when to look … basically this huge telescope was at my command! That did make me a bit nervous because I hoped I was making the right decision at the time (and looking back at it now, I’m confident I did). When we looked at images of our target star and nearby stars, we noticed a small blip to the lower right of every star in the image. I think we will be able to find an Earth-size planet in an Earth-like orbit around a sun-like star sooner than later in my lifetime. It’s easier to travel in the middle of the night rather than get stuck trying to move an elephant around in daytime traffic. Emily has worked with individuals who’ve performed in more than a hundred countries over their lifetime. You feel like you are on top of the world, and you have such an amazing view of both the ocean and the sky.
Not only was that awesome, but seeing the telescope in action was like looking at a truly marvelous piece of human technology.
But that is one thing that was emphasized to me during my trip—you do not want to risk wasting time at a 10-meter telescope! When we realized what was causing this problem, we tried to reset the system so that mirror segment would realign itself. I think it will be very difficult, but not impossible, to determine if it has an Earth-like atmosphere and composition and is therefore habitable, but this could still happen in my lifetime. What I think is very tricky and may or may not happen in my lifetime is finding an *inhabited* Earth-like planet. So, after considering our options, and to avoid losing any more observing time, we decided that because the small blip was still fairly close to the star, we would still be able to get all the light we needed for our observations. That would be a truly incredible discovery and I really hope such a thing happens in my lifetime. I would say this type of problem was not necessarily solved, but it was something we had to deal with by weighing the pros and cons of getting observations with this type of issue present.



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Comments

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