The aspect of the carnie lifestyle and the essential types of life it portrays has possibilities but it all depends on the balance of the lives shown. In “American Carnival” [David Skernick/Schiffer/ 128pgs], some of the lives shown are interesting and the poses natural and telling. But there is not really as much context for what is being shown. Granted the book is a collection of photographs of various fairs and carnivals between 2010 and 2015. Some of the images are undeniably textured for sure but it would have been better with perhaps one or two more sentences with each one. Skernick speaks of panoramic photographs but these seem more large format wide angle. Panoramas from a more specific point of view bring to mind imagery that actor Jeff Bridges has captured on his movie shoots for years. One specific photo the author here captures has is a swing ride where the panorama didn’t quite gel so some of the riders are half cut out. It is not really abstract as seen in the digital age. It comes off more as sloppy. A couple of the photographs like a pizza maker smiling, two carnival game girls showing their foot tattoos and an elephant handler responding to the stinky part of his job have a certain humor that again would be better keyed in by context of a story or verbage. There are a few photos like of a swing ride from the top of a funhouse or a slide just before a storm which have a lyricism but also a one sentence story behind them. There is some interesting potential here but so much more possibility especially in layout and structure that could have been done.
By Tim Wassberg