Herds of sugar-rattled kids and jostling teenagers, some bashfully toting stuffed bear prizes won from the game tents. Small town ritual, they scream and flirt and fight and own the space.
Can a leopard change its spots? These Carnies here are polite and approachable. But firm – and you know they have to be – and you figure that they probably don’t let them get away with half the shit they used to, liability being what it is. One of them, a weathered guy with a crazy tan and weird blonde eyebrows, he whistles me over and lectures me on not taking photos without the operator’s consent. Some kids’ parents, you know, they don’t want that at all. Fair enough, he’s probably seen it. He locks ’em in and sets them spinning.
They’ve got matching shirts, sharp little logos. But the guy with the wrist band, he gossips stories of Carny abuse, tyrannical bosses. You see that trailer there, the one that says office, the only one without a line-up… you like to think something nefarious and wicked goes on in there. A microcosm of corruption, shocking and alluring and just a bit illicit, I’d wager… such is the burden carried by today’s Carny, a suitable scapegoat for our own improprieties and malefactions. Maybe they’ve changed, maybe they haven’t, but it matters not at all. The patrons, on the other hand, haven’t changed a bit and they get fleeced of their parents’ money just as effectively as when I was young.
Having grown up in a small town, there was something special about having the carnival come to town. Even though the machines are humble and, well, kind of sad and grim, like the atmosphere of the whole fair, in a way. This place is so plastic and worn, so gaudy, sugar-coated and superficial, and that’s all it offers and that’s all we ask for. I wanted to juxtapose that against something soulful and deep, some soundtrack for the thousands of small dramas that play themselves out.
(The music is: I Will Cook You Dry Beans, performed by Sándor Lakatos)
Most of these images were shot in May, 2012 during a carnival visit to town. A few of the photos come from earlier visits of the same carnival. The time-lapse stuff took a lot of work (just had to say that).