They say when you're a true Carney that it is in your blood. I suppose I fall into that category. For the past thirty-three years I have been photographing the carnival and its people. When I was a little girl I worked at the carnival with my mom and grandparents. It all started with my grandmother's best friend, Lila, who married a man named Mat Wilson. He owned a few food stands (we call these grab joints). My sister and I worked for Barb, Aunt Lila's daughter, during the summer when we were old enough to count and return change. It was a good way to make some extra cash during the summer, and it sure beat working on the farm down the road, picking strawberries in the hot sun for 25 cents a quart.
When my sister and I got older, my sister bought a small ice cream stand called Chocolate Nut Sundae. The Sundae was a square piece of ice cream stuck on a double-headed cone. The ice cream was then dipped in chocolate and quickly dipped in nuts before the chocolate hardened. I would dream of hearing myself call out the bally call, "Get your Chocolate Nut Sundae here! Dipped in chocolate and rolled in nuts, it's yummy in your tummy." I bought my sister's Chocolate Nut Sundae stand in the mid-1970s and traveled long enough to help support myself through college. After I graduated, I left the business and opened a commercial photography studio.
My sister stayed in the business. Now, she and her husband own a large amusement company of approximately sixty rides. I am still involved with the business in one way or another, even if that means just visiting my sister on the lot.
That charismatic quality about the carnival lifestyle is captured in my still images and reveals how the carnival industry has changed over the years. My images capture the movement and colors of the lights that animate and adorn the rides, food stands, and games.
My portraits allow the viewer an inside look, a behind-the-scenes peek at this most interesting lifestyle and its people. The book documents the carnival industry from the early years to the present day carnival. The photographs are mainly made up of images that I have taken from the early 1970's through today. I narrate the text from interviews collected from carneys and also write the text from the experience that I have had over the past fifty years. The book is a personal interpretation of those daily moments on the carnival that are not seen by the general public. A glossary describes terms used through out the book to help the reader understand this unique American sub culture.
Melanie Heinrich has been published internationally with commercial and fine art photography. She has written three textbooks, taught and directed the photography department at a New Jersey university. Her Education is listed below: Associate in Science - Rochester Institute of Technology 1983 Bachelors in Fine Arts - Rochester Institute of Technology 1984 Masters in Liberal Arts - Monmouth University 2005 Masters in Fine Arts - Goddard College 2007 Please visit her web site at: http://www.mhstudios.com
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