Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Random Sliver of the American Summer in a Parking Lot

I don't know exactly why I like photographing the things I like to photograph, I just find certain things interesting or I want to say something. It's summer, which means there's lots of church festivals and county fairs requiring a high demand for carnival rides. As I drove down 275 on Tuesday, I noticed there were lots of trailers hauling classic carnival fixtures as the semi drivers smoked their cigarettes out of rolled down windows. When I saw this as a kid it was always fun to try and guess where those trailers were going.

EDIT: The photographs that accompanied this post are gone. I know where the original files are: on a DVD in a box under my bed. Maybe one day I'll find them.

EDIT 2: Found em.

Later on as I drove down 275 at 1 A.M. there appeared on the horizon bright lights like a mirage in a dessert that was a confusing, changing, quick and often disappointing summer. Seeing a random carnival in the parking lot of a pseudo-abandoned mall was quite a nice surprise.

The carnival didn't open till tomorrow, but I knew I would have to make time to try and photograph it. Seeing it all lit up as I exited the highway reminded me of a photograph taken by one of my favorite photographers Nick Kelsh, whom I had met when I was going to school in Athens:

- Photo Credit: Nick Kelsh

The next day at work I had lunch with my friend Todd. Todd had spent 13 years of his life working and traveling with the Kissel Brothers Carnival Company before he joined the military and eventually came to work at the same place as me. "I was trying to get away from friends and family and I couldn't join the service yet." said Todd. After my break with Todd I finished out the rest of my shift, stopped to see some old friends and then raced down the highway to try and get to the random carnival before it closed.

20 minutes and 5 dollars was all I needed/had to snap a few photographs, ride the ferris wheel and think about what Todd had said:

"The first thing you think of when you think of carnivals is cotton candy and caramel apples."
"A lot of carnival rides were originally designed to train pilots for World War Two and later the Space Program"

"A carnival is mostly just a group of travelers wanting to go around and entertain."
"Games bring people a lot of people in. You always saw those guys who thought they was tough trying to shoot the BB guns. It doesn't compare to firing a real gun in the service. I learned on the M-16"

As I walked around the carnival I wasn't concerned with my problems or frustrations. I could only enjoy photographing it and think of two things: The Carnival at the beginning of the movie "Big," and how this fun house...

...reminded me of the 'Are You Afraid of The Dark' episode with the evil clown. Random thoughts, but both that awful Tom Hanks movie and children's television program show how people once viewed carnivals. Carnivals were once a symbol of American summer that are now all too often abandoned for the over glorified versions like Kings Island and Six Flags.

Todd, this one's for you.
- Todd.

Update | Oct. 7, 2017:


  1. I only have one problem with this post. That "awful" Tom Hanks movie?! Big is a classic!

    Love the shot of the Ferris Wheel in motion! Beautiful!

  2. That shot of the couple kissing is a classic - straight out of good ol' Americana and the memories of virtually everyone who grew up going to summer festivals or fairs. Great stuff.

  3. The Ferris Wheel is especially neat, but so's everything else.

    I love the lines, the colors, the symmetry, everything!

    These pictures don't just make me want to go to this carnival. They make me want to pack my bags and move there.

  4. I saw that carnival on the 12th driving by. It was a wtf moment for me. I had to go check it out. By a wide margin it was the most spectacular carnival I've ever seen. Yet just like the mall it sits by, It was pretty much empty.

  5. Love the shot of the Ferris Wheel in motion! Beautiful!

  6. That "awful" Tom Hanks movie?! Big is a classic!