It was one of the things that just seemed like it was meant to be.
Melissa Gibson was searching for a unique way to highlight the artistic elements of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, the book featured this year in One Book One Bluegrass.
When she called Georgetown photographer John Stephen Hockensmith about the possibility of using some of his black-and-white work to reflect the book's circus theme, he asked whether she'd like some pictures of an actual circus.
"My head just exploded," said Gibson, reference librarian at the Scott County Public Library, where Hockensmith's work will be on display through April 9. A premiere event will begin at 7 p.m. Thursday.
The exhibit is one of dozens of events being hosted by seven county library systems in Central Kentucky as part of One Book One Bluegrass, a community reading program that encourages Central Kentucky residents to read and discuss the same book.
Morgenstern's debut novel was released in 2011 and is a fairy tale of magic and romance set in 19th-century London. The Night Circus won the Alex Award from the American Library Association in 2012.
From hosting a steampunk gala — steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction, artistic style and fashion inspired by industrialized Victorian England — to highlighting fire swallowing, the libraries are exploring a variety of Big Top themes.
Hockensmith's photos of the Circus Flora of St. Louis fit like two dozens clowns in a tiny car.
The images were created after Hockensmith, best known for his equine images, was invited to photograph Circus Flora's 2011 show The Wizard: Merlin & the Legends of King Arthur. The one-ring, European-style circus inspired Hockensmith in new ways, even after 40 years in the business.
"I was not only drawn into the circus horse but into the big top," he said, adding that he found himself fascinated with images of light and shadow that evoked the sort of escapism captured in the allure of the acts.
"It really became a Kabuki of shadows and artwork," he said. "To the best of my ability, I tried to push the shadows into the action ... the shadow essentially becomes the verb in the sentences."
To extend the circus theme, the images are printed on a tentlike vinyl. And, like the book, a historical love story set in the world of magicians and illusionists, the pictures capture a very different kind of life than most of us know.
Hockensmith hopes visitors to the exhibit will come away "seeing that in this brave new world of digital photography there's new boundaries to push ... new areas of light and shadow that can be probed."
AT A GLANCE
One Book, One Bluegrass
The book: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
What: A collaboration of public libraries in Anderson, Fayette, Franklin, Jessamine, Madison, Scott and Woodford counties. Free events are scheduled through early May. For a list of events, go to Lexpublib.org/onebook2013/events. You also can check for events at your local library.
The ball: The Night Circus Gala, 7-11 p.m. April 20, a steampunk-themed event at Red Mile's Round Barn. $20. Reservations required. (859) 231-5557. Morgenstern is scheduled to attend.
IF YOU GO
Emerging Shadows Return to the Light, an exhibit of photographs by John Stephen Hockensmith.
Opening: 7 p.m. Thursday; runs through April 9. Scott County Public Library, 104 South Bradford Lane, Georgetown.
For more information: (502) 863-3566 or Scottpublib.org.