Changes in society are not always obvious. Sometimes they can be very subtle. The grocery store rides that many of us enjoyed as children are slowly disappearing from the urban landscape. That mechanical horse or the spaceship ride made a trip to the grocery store bearable as a child but now seems hard to find.
On the surface, the thought of photographing coin-operated grocery store rides appears to be fun and superficial. But many questions and observations ran through my mind during the course of this project. Most of the rides’ current physical condition had deteriorated due to being neglected while out in the elements. Many more rides are located in areas that are cluttered with vending machines and shopping carts, which seem to deter any desire to be used. Warning labels graffiti the rides becoming a bold visual icon that serves as a reminder of our increasingly litigious nature.
Five years after beginning this project, I returned to a number of the sites of my original photographs. Many of the rides were gone. Some of the actual buildings were gone. A few of the rides had been changed for new ones, but a ride still remained. As the population and economy of our city grows and changes, businesses move, change or close. The demographics evolve and the family oriented population shifts to a different part of the city or country. Essentially, things change. Revisiting the past through photography is not a new photographic theme as evidenced through the work of John Divola’s LAX NAZ series or Mark Klett’s Third View project. A hint of Walker Evans’ influence runs through this project as he made us examine the anonymous, everyday storefronts of the early 20th century.
The images printed in Black and White came to represent the past, whether it was a decade ago or a day ago. Color came to represent today, maybe even a glimpse into the future, however it may change. The revisited site was photographed at a different time of day or year or a slightly different position from the original photograph to signify not only the passing of time but also how things are never quite the same. The findings of this project seemed to mirror life: sometimes changes are dramatic, sometimes they are barely noticeable, but change happens. And continues to happen. Change can be so subtle that if you don’t pay attention, you won’t know what’s different.