COULROPHOBIA

photographs by jordan hefler

Clowns have always fascinated me. When I was a little girl, my parents brought me to the circus numerous times and I would beg to watch the VHS recordings of the acts at home over and over again. I had this clown mask I bought from the circus and I loved to wear it around the house. I even dressed up as a clown for my first Halloween, and a few times after that as well.  However, none of my friends ever liked clowns, and I never understood why.

It wasn’t until I got older that I realized that clowns had a stigma mostly because of the actions of the person underneath the mask. There is a dark irony about something that is supposed to cause happiness that actually causes pain or discomfort. It is no secret that clowns throughout history have repeatedly been people who essentially are social outcasts, such as pedophiles, rapists, drunkards, or even in some cases, murderers. The fear of clowns is a very real thing in our society, even more so with adults than kids sometimes.  

I think there is something addictively disturbing about someone who chooses to hide his or her face with the face of something else. The deceptiveness of clowns is interesting because just as they are hiding, they seek attention. Because I have such adoration for clowns, I often choose to incorporate them in my work. I usually get a response of discomfort from my viewers, which makes me believe that this topic is an interesting one to discover further. I feel that if my audience is having a strong reaction to my work, than as an artist I am doing my job.

This series of photographs is an attempt to illustrate Coulrophobia, the irrational fear of clowns, by portraying the sense of loneliness and oddity of clowns in our society. By presenting them in bizarre, inappropriate situations, these images suggest a comment on both how the person under the mask may be feeling as a human being, as well as presenting a visually uncomfortable message to the viewer, thereby perpetuating a feeling of fear.