The coast has long nurtured a unique bond with photography. However, while seaside photography might typically evoke visions of Martin Parr’s claustrophobic coastal resorts brimming with eccentric characters, Rob Ball’s interpretation is a wholly different kettle of fish. Despite what the fluorescent signs and exotic iconography lay claim to, Ball’s new photobook Funland portrays the fragility of a great British tradition that many hate to love and love to hate.
Beaches are barren, shops shuttered, restaurants emptied, all while the seaside gently sleeps. People are scarcely present, or at least not in their full glory. Yet when they do figure in Ball’s photographs, clad in contemporary clothing, they serve as a reminder of the unchanging appearance of these coastal towns, highlighting how many have remained the same for over 50 years.
“The past and present both remain visible, and heritage and progress are equally celebrated and form part of the attraction,” writes Ball in the book. “I was drawn to the epic façades of the seafront during the making of this project; these large-scale graphic edifices with grand names such as ‘Magic City’, ‘Golden Mile’ and ‘Pleasureland’ sitting alongside the parking meters and rubbish bins.” It’s these contradictions that form the peculiar spectacle of the seaside – a spectacle that’s threaded throughout most coastal towns, even though Ball argues a “welcome lack of homogeny” among them.
Though Ball is no stranger to capturing places that were once hubs of communal leisure, Funland lies in stark contrast to his previous project Dreamlands, a series of murky tintypes depicting dusty amusement parks in Margate, Kent and Coney Island, New York. The projects do, however, share a common interest in tracing the evolution of time, and how places passively fade or stubbornly remain over the course of history.
Funland by Rob Ball is published by Hoxton Mini Press, £30; available from hoxtonminipress.com