There seems to be an almost endless selection of books which focus on abandoned buildings etc, which often focus on a particular geographical area or theme – an ever-growing visual library of loss as it were.
However, in amongst such books there is a striking intriguing duality to Seph Lawless’ Abandoned: Hauntingly Beautiful Deserted Theme Parks; because of the theme there is often both a sense of playfulness and poignancy to the images it contains.
At other times, such as in the twilight image above on the right these could well be photographs of a still functioning theme park, maybe one that has merely closed down for the night.
The first impression the images often give is not always necessarily of decrepitude and abandonment. Perhaps the optimistic and joyous nature and memories of such places cloud the objective viewing of them and it takes a moment to register that the amusement rides are actually becoming overgrown with plant life. In other photographs rather than neglect the images could represent amusement parks that are in the process of being built or renovated – perhaps that is again due to the optimistic etc associations of such places.
Also the names and cultural reference points of the abandoned parks add a particular poignancy and resonance, such as a crumbling sign for The Enchanted Forest Playland, a place which appears no longer so enchanted or enchanting (at least in a conventional sense) and a now neglected Wizard of Oz-esque Yellow Brick Road leads… well to nowhere in particular, certainly not a heart for a tin man, courage for a lion and a return home for Dorothy.
Accompanying which rather than seeming like images from the real world, at times the images seem to reference Hollywood film sets, say from a film set decades after an apocalypse or aliens have laid waste to civilisation.
This sense of unreality is particularly present in some images such as those above where teacups have gained surreal Alice In Wonderland-esque proportions or a cheerful clown figure can be seen waving in the distance, literally and in a figuratively dream like way, nearly lost and buried in the encroaching plant life.
As referred to in the book’s title there is a beauty to these images, which is a curious aspect of much of such photographic work; its focusing on finding beauty and even a kind of glamour in ruins and decay. It is quite rare in the book’s photographs that things look more like a discarded eyesore – although that is also present here and there in photographs such as the one above on the right, where a ride’s former components are portrayed as being merely so much detritus…
…or the image above where the abandoned elements seem closer in character to examples of graffiti strewn urban decay.
Aside from the images portraying nature reclaiming these abandoned places, the parks generally seem to be in rural areas – possibly because, particularly in America where they were taken, land in urban city areas is too pricey and limited to allow for large amounts of space such places need.
Both their rural locations and the reclaiming by nature also make the parks seem literally geographically and possibly historically quite far removed from modern-day progress and civilisation, lending them an air nearer to say ancient abandoned monuments and cities discovered in a remote forest.
Although to my knowledge Seph Lawless’ Abandoned is the only traditionally commercially available photography book that focuses on this theme, there is a surprising amount of photography that focuses on abandoned amusement parks online. The number of such images implies that often when a park closes its gates for good they are often left to merely decay rather than being demolished, which again may well be due to the comparative cheapness and wider availability of the rural land in which they are often located.
- Seph Lawless’ website
- Abandoned at Skyhorse Publishing
- Seph Lawless Abandoned
- A general online image search for “Abandoned theme parks in the UK” (there are quite a few…)
Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
- A Bear’s Ghosts – Soviet Dreams and Lost Futures: Chapter 12 Book Images
- Day #228/365: Studys and documentation of the fading shadows from defences of the realm…
- Day #229/365: A Bear’s Ghosts…
- Day #346/365: Audiological Reflections and Pathways #1; a library of loss