Silver Gelatin Photographs of Mid-Atlantic Amusement Parks and Boardwalks
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After six years in Texas, I returned to the Mid-Atlantic coast to explore the old boardwalk amusement parks. These seashore fairgrounds were a staple of my youth, from family vacations to teen-age rites of passage. Built in the early 1900’s as weekend destinations for the working class, the parks were well seasoned by the time I arrived in the 60’s. The colossal, ornate spinning machines and heavy iron tracks seem to parody the machines of industry that employed the factory workers during the week. In a giant, surreal reversal the machines now cradle, swing and entertain the workers, turning leverage into leisure time, and stress into play.
From my distant and land-locked new home, their location on the edge of the sea was intoxicating. As I witnessed the parks and rides, they seemed triumphant in their history and decay. Brightly painted signs decorated the colossal machines and garish carnival creatures posed in their midst. With age and peeling paint, they transcended the fleeting moment to stand as mysterious markers of time and lost hours. They danced, vibrating on the edge of the earth, where land yields to sea, the last area uncharted by roads and urban development. The proximity to the sea was dangerous and welcoming; both mother and monster. The salt air charges the experience, even as it erodes the steel and structures.
The images were photographed with cameras as old as many of the rides, developed in the darkroom with technology of a similar age to the parks and my own history with them. This series continues to expand, as I travel between Texas and the Mid-Atlantic coast, even while the many of the characters and rides quietly disappear.