Posted on Mar 17, 2003

Nori Lupfer '03 with “Eddie the Clown”

“My life takes me in directions I never expected,” said Nori Lupfer '03. “Every time I try to make plans, I'm just thrown for a 180.”

Which is fitting, considering that Lupfer is an accomplished aerial freestyle skier and no stranger to twists and turns. In fact, the visual arts major did the aerial stunts for years at the international level and more recently on three tours with the Ringling Brothers-Barnum & Bailey Circus.

She'll be running away to join the circus again, this time with a Watson Fellowship to study “Circuses and Stunts: Photography
of Entertainment in Motion,” an adventure that will take her to Brazil,
Switzerland, France,
Slovenia, Italy,
Netherlands, Germany,
Denmark, Czech
Republic and Russia.

Lupfer, of West Lebanon, N.H., is one of 60 graduating
seniors from 50 colleges and universities who will receive $22,000 from the Thomas J. Watson Foundation for a one-year wanderjahr outside of the U.S.
She is the 43rd Union student to earn a Watson since the program
began in 1969.

She says she'll be doing more than simply photographing circus stunt performers, a passion she developed while performing with Ringling Brothers. “I think what I'm more interested in are the things that arise from the circus and entertainment field,” she said, adding that she is trying to capture in photographs the culture of the entertainment industry.

Lupfer, who plans a career as an artist, just completed an internship with Saturday Night Live, where she also found herself doing photography on set of the Conan O'Brien show and MSNBC.

The European and South American circuses, much smaller and more intimate than the U.S. version, produce many of the performers that appear with the Ringling Brothers shows, Lupfer said. She expects to use up to four “home bases” to do her study: Rio, Brazil; Geneva, Switzerland; Ljubljana, Slovenia; and St. Petersburg, Russia.

“The circus world is pretty small and I expect to meet people who have common acquaintances,” she said of getting access to the shows and performers. “I also know a lot of people from ski jumping.”

Besides her photography, Lupfer said she will keep a journal and do some drawing. “All along the way, I'll pick up projects, even painting.”

And in her downtime? “I would love to jump again.”

Besides Lupfer, other Union
finalists were: Jeff Fairfield, psychology,
Arundel, Maine — “Running in their Footsteps: A Study of Distance Running
Communities” (Finland, Kenya, New Zealand, Scotland, and
Greece); Brian Kern, biology, Voorheesville, N.Y. — “Life from Death: The
Marine Impacts of Submerged Wrecks” (Bermuda, Bahamas,
Micronesia, Scotland); and Eric Meissner, biology and political science, Troy,
N.Y. — “The Relationship Between Culture and 'Emergency' Medicine” (Honduras, Nicaragua, Netherlands, England).

Nineteen students submitted
preliminary proposals to the campus Watson committee: Profs. Ann Anderson,
Joyce Madancy, Byron Nichols, Ed Pavlic, and former Watson Fellow Eugene Kokot

One of Lupfer's circus photos appears on the Watson Fellowship web site. Visit:

To read more about Lupfer's circus experience, visit our news
site at:

Or, to read a Times Union account of her
experience, visit: