Artist Roger Vail has been haunting late night fairgrounds for over 40 years, shooting carnival rides in motion through long exposure photography. These images capture a frenzy of light movement, while surrounding trees and ticket booths remain perfectly still.
“Carnival: Photographs by Roger Vail,” currently on display at the Joseph Bellows Gallery until August 22, features a wide range of Vail’s work. Viewers can trace the origins of Vail’s technique, from when he used a 8×10 inch view camera to create smaller, black and white platinum/palladium prints, to his to more recent large-scale color photographs. This exhibit also maps the evolution of the photography. Vail’s first photographs, taken in the 1970s, predate the digital camera. As decades go by, Vail graduates to increasingly updated technology while maintaining the same level of fascination with his subject.
These images, which resemble giant spin art pieces come to life, were originally taken “as an experiment,” explains Vail in an interview with Junk Culture. “I went to a carnival to shoot the facades. While there I decided to see what would happen if I made a time exposure of the ferris wheel in question. First sight of the negative was thrilling so I decided to make more.”
Vail’s photographs have been shown throughout the country and are in the permanent collections of many prestigious museums, including: Museum of Modern Art, NY, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Photography, and Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
Images courtesy of the Joseph Bellows Gallery.