American Carnival – David Skernick

The nostalgia I experienced paging through this book was so much fun! Each year growing up I’d look forward to the Show (regional Australia carnival) coming to town. It would be in town for three days each year and it was a big deal; we even got a day off school on the Friday because it was a regional public holiday when I was growing up.

I’d feel like the most important person in the world when the ferris wheel stopped at the top, allowing me a bird’s eye view of the other rides. The local newspaper would list all of the different show bags that would be available, including all of the treasures you’d find inside them, and I’d carefully make my wish list and then agonise about which ones I absolutely had to have when I was told how many I could actually have.

I loved thinking I was a driver as I roared around the dodgem car circuit and still have photographic evidence of the one time my ride turned sour when an older kid rammed into my car and I somehow managed to hurt my hand in the process. I eagerly anticipated the fairy floss melting on my tongue and changing its colour, and was fascinated watching the vendor make it before my very eyes.

I desperately wanted to win specific toys in the games I played, the toys themselves losing some of their shine when I got them home, the sense of accomplishment remaining. I envied the bigger kids who were tall enough to go on the scary rides and waited for my height to catch up to my excitement.

It was loud. It was dusty. There were bright lights everywhere. There was so much to see, smell and do. It was magical!

Wellenflug, Oklahoma State Fair

In American Carnival, photographer David Skernick has collated a series of colour and black and white photos (predominantly panoramas) that bring to life the carnival experience, from the rides and attractions to the people who work there. Each photo is accompanied by a brief description. I would have been more engaged had the portraits included more information about the people they picture, for example, a quote regaling a humorous, touching or otherwise interesting experience they’ve had working at a carnival.

Halloween, Louisiana State Fair

The photos follow a short foreword by Heidi Gray and an introduction by the photographer. Spanning from day to night and including some vibrant sunsets and atmospheric storm clouds, I don’t know if you could see these photos without reminiscing about your own carnival experiences. While the day photos provide details you don’t see at night, it’s the night photography that truly brings the carnival to life, with the bright lights and blur of rides in motion.

Thank you to NetGalley and Schiffer Publishing Ltd. for the opportunity to read this book. You can find out more about this book here.

Photos (c) Dave Skernick, American Carnival, published by Schiffer Publishing 2019; used with permission.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Come celebrate the community, connection, and quirkiness of the American carnival. Stunning photographs by David Skernick capture the magic of the rides and games and the carnies and clowns who make the carnival their home. Meet Kat the sword swallower, Ember the fire eater, and the Human Fuse, Brian Miser, who sails through the air on fire! As day fades to dusk and the lights come up, smell the cotton candy, feel the vertigo of the Silver Yo Yo, and hear the laughter and screams. The panoramic images allow you to see the fair as if you were standing there yourself.

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