19 July 2015
An interesting feature of Tintype Photography is that the image is always a direct reflection of the subject. So, in Rob Ball’s Dreamland images, the writing is always in reverse. Tintype is also evocative of the past and Ball is taking us directly there in his sharing of these depictions of the fading grandeur of the once vibrant Margate amusement park. These images are in juxtaposition with New York’s famous Coney Island.
The choice of Tintype as the capture medium for this exhibition adds layers to the theme. Tintype was once the choice of many fairground photo-booths because it was processed on site, giving immediate access to the finished product. Also Tintype is heavily affected by its processing environment, dust and other particles along with smudges create a sense of decay to each image. The finished image is a reflection of the decline of the park but so is the process of creating it.
Ball takes us through the Looking Glass and we are shown a world in mournful decay. Some images are paired and they show the same scene through the passage of time. A picnic table in one print has an umbrella, but in the next, the umbrella has gone, fallen apart.
There is a current trend for “ruin porn” in photography, but Ball’s work reaches beyond that. The marriage of medium, subject matter and his skill create poignant moments. The work sometimes veers to sentimentality but this is a place of childhood family memories for thousands and perhaps it was inevitable that would inhabit the work in some way. These images feel familiar but eerie, the reversal of presentation and the sense of withering in the medium itself reminds us that all is fleeting.
The Exhibition continues at the Photographer's Gallery until 2nd August. For more information, see here
Image 01_PressImage l Rob Ball, Dreamland Landscape, 2013-2015 .jpg