Fair Thoughts

Saturday was the last night of the fair.



"Fair Trade", by Robert Leedy


[click on images to enlarge]

Garry McElwee called and asked if I wanted to join him in a fair shoot. We have a lot of fun on these impromptu photographic adventures so I quickly signed on.

Gosh, it’s been ages since I’ve been to the fair!  In fact, while we stood in line to be scanned, I realized that when I last came to the fair, there was no such thing as online ticket ordering, I don’t even think there was anything such as online. And there was no checking of personal belongings and metal detectors. Nor had anyone figured out that turkey drumsticks would be a hit…


"Launch" by Robert Leedy


Though I have been a few times to the fair in between, my main images of the fair are eating way too much junk and riding the scariest rides until I barfed the contents of my 10-year-old stomach. What is an unsupervised 10-year-old kid doing at a fair? Hey, that was back when parents would dump their kids off – en masse – and have no worries at all. Maybe there was an older 14 or 15-year-old brother or sister assigned as a chaperone but we were usually very eager to loose one another and ended up meeting somewhere before the parents picked us up at the end of the night.

Some things may have changed at the fair but for the most part, they really are the same and probably will be forever. Fairs always attract people in numbers – even in poor economic times. Garry said it well: “Fairs are kind of like pizza: no one actually admits to liking them but most people do not dislike them either.”

Fairs and circuses have been photographed to Hell and back. For Garry and myself, it was more of a creative exercise – stretching those creative muscles. But Garry’s main motive was to acquire candied apples for a project he is photographing and my main motive was to feed myself visual imagery regardless of whether or not a good photo or painting came out of it. Just the act of composing – lining everything up nicely within a rectangle was good enough for me.

The subject matter is endless. Both of us took a lot of images.

I didn’t carry a tripod along. Not only did I not want the added weight, I wanted to be freed up for catching things at a moment’s notice. I also wanted to experiment with hand-held, slow exposures. Not all of my images are in focus. It’s intentional.


"Duck Pond", by Robert Leedy


40 years ago, no one would have noticed two men in their 50’s and 60’s walking around the fair, taking photos of young children. Yeah, definitely two creepy pedophiles, for sure. Garry & I didn’t discuss this but I’m sure it crossed his mind as well. You have to be careful these days with how you behave while taking images of – not only children – but people in general. You either must ask, be totally indiscreet or handle yourself appropriately in a given situation. At one point, I took an image of a young boy riding a small mechanical bull. While he rode and I shot, his mother looked back at me with a genuine smile knowing that I was only sharing in that little boy’s moment of excitement. I knew she was not threatened. She probably had not yet been bitten by political correctedness…

OK, funnel cakes: Maybe I was too obsessed with the rides but I do not remember funnel cakes at the Jacksonville fair when I was a kid. They may have existed at other fairs – maybe up North – but I don’t remember them here. Of course, my palette is much more sophisticated now… Can someone back me up – or straighten me out – on this?

Another change I noticed was the absence of freak and burlesque shows. I guess political correctness has run them off. Without the former, there were no barkers unless you count the several miked guys guessing people’s age and weight.

I also missed seeing the guy on the loud Indian motorbike speeding around the cylindrical cage in defiance of gravity. There was no House of Mirrors either.

The candied apples have changed as well. They don’t seem to be as big as they once were. And I’m sure the Health Department now requires them to be sold in wrapped plastic. Garry didn’t like that they no longer use popsicle sticks either. In the end, he decided to make his own versions at home.

I think Garry was a bit disappointed that I didn’t go for fair food while we were there. He said he was planning to eat dinner at home and the deep fried smells were suddenly no longer appetizing for me.


"New Improved...Fair Food", by Robert Leedy


Despite no indulgence in midway cuisine, we had quite a fun time. When we got to the car to head home, it had been dark for quite a while and we were surprised that it was only 6:30 p.m.

Well, at least I can say on this trip I got some good images AND my stomach wasn’t gurgling from an overload of corn dogs and cotton candy – nor did I smell like vomit on the drive home…

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