Dreamland amusement park in Margate, Kent opened to the public in 1920 though its site has an even longer historical link with fairgrounds, having been first used for amusement rides as early as 1880. During the height of its popularity it was one of the UK’s best-loved amusement parks and a top tourist attraction. Years of steady decline and a slow dismantling of iconic rides led to the park’s eventual closure in 2003. Yet it retained a place in the hearts of many local people and when plans were announced to develop housing on the site a decade long public campaign was triggered with the aim of restoring it as a fully operational amusement park. The campaign succeeded and the park will reopen to the public in Summer 2015.
Rob Ball remembers the park with great fondness from his own childhood visits. In ‘Dreamlands’ he incorporates colour photographs of found objects and of the park as it fell into disrepair, as well as black and white archive photographs and tintypes. The tintypes use a process created in the 1860s, around the same time that the Dreamland site began being used as an entertainment venue. For Ball, tintypes emphasise the physicality of the landscape and its imperfections and he used the process to document the initial stages of reconstruction at the park. On each visit he had to construct a temporary darkroom in which to coat, sensitise, expose, develop and fix the tintypes. Dust, debris, fingerprints and even the quality of daylight are all recorded on its surface, so that each plate carries evidence of the environment it was made in and even of the photographer himself. The process itself also has strong historical links to the seaside where itinerant photographers would set-up temporary studios offering family portraits to weekend and holiday visitors.
Rob Ball is an artist and Deputy Director of SEAS Photography, Director of Obsolete Studios / The Old Lookout and Senior Lecturer in Photography at Canterbury Christ Church University, UK. He has exhibited at The Photographers’ Gallery, London; Format Festival, Derby; Illinois State University, USA; and the Sidney Cooper Gallery, Canterbury. His work is in the permanent collections of University of the Arts and The National Portrait Gallery.
96 pages, 240mm x 1790mm,
25 duotone plates & 26 colour plates