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
The essence of people reflects in their domicile and how they function. of course if you are a rock star you tend to think of privacy but also creative textures. “Rock Stars At Home” [Chris Charlesworth/Apollo Publishers/176pgs] is a fascinating insight into people and how they live without being too intrusive. Complimented by interesting photos and very detailed descriptions at least of layout but also of design selections and landscapes within the houses, one gets a perspective of the people that lived in them, even for a short time. The most specific in the book that are detailed are The Rolling Stones and The Beatles for the most part. In watching how The Beatles struggled and then grew apart but also the balance really gives a perspective into what happened. Ringo Starr, George Harrison and John Lennon seemed to get along and even bought each other’s houses at times. Paul McCartney, even though some of his homes including a farm are discussed, really seems according to the book at times to be the odd man out which, as always, is a matter of perspective. The house where “Imagine” was filmed and which Ringo eventually bought gives a perspective into Lennon as does a lesser point The Dakota in NY. For The Stones, the infamous houses of Keith Richards and one of the early members that died before the advent of the 70s really give a perspective of how out-of-control those times were but never fully grotesque. Later in the book which is more in prose than visual form, the beginning lives of Motley Crue and Guns N’ Roses and their almost scavenger techniques are described on Sunset Blvd. years and above all really shows the underbelly of rock n roll as compared to the British Invasion. The stories are told from a multitude of perspectives of people who were around. Some of the more interesting takes are those rockers who definitely had a sense of real estate tactic to them, most specifically Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin. Though he seemed a little disheveled in the early 80s after the breakup of Zeppelin (mostly it seems also because of the OD of Bonzo [drummer John Bonham], his specificity to detail seems undeniable and plays into his current methodical element of remastering (which is why one more Zeppelin show per se especially considering his penchant for detail would be great). Robert Plant’s motivations might be different but his home is not shown in this book. Their planes and the charters that were used for many in the early 70s tours were interesting but it seems as if the plane wasn’t ownedd in comparison to today where celebrities own smaller G5s which cost infinitely more. The interesting aspect is that the perspective can be show for the older crowd. Granted certain stories of Sonny Bono & Cher’s as well as Barry Gibb, Neil Young and Bob Dylan among others really paint an aspect of idyllic elements but also of isolation and connection. The unassuming shots of Young and Dylan and how these places (like Johnny Cash’s home) truly enhance the creative properties but almost the internal vision of “the voice of a generation” (when they themselves privately integrated and debated thoughts of who they were and the stories they would tell) is fascinating. “Rock Stars At Home” is a undeniable look without pretentiousness (despite a bit of detail) that gives an interesting look into who these people are and were. Even though they might not say anything, their choice of details and of lifestyle speaks in many sectors to their aspect of being.
By Tim Wassberg