For his project Fair Judgement, Seattle-based photographer William Rugen frequents many state fairs in the Western United States, including Washington, Texas, Utah, and Arizona. After years spent away from rural fair grounds, the project has gifted him with the opportunity to relive small town childhood moments spent balloon racing and gazing awestruck at some of the rides, which he himself avoided due to motion sickness. Fair Judgement has birthed a side project devoted solely to nostalgic visions of rides and games, seen with a strong eye for color and shape.
Most of Rugen’s carnival photographs are unpeopled, evoking an atmosphere of suspense and anticipation. He explains that he prefers the strong graphic quality of stillness, one that renders the scene in vibrant hues and clearly defined shapes. For him, light and shadow take a backseat to color and form, elements that are readily highlighted by the flattened light of the fair tents. The stationary, fixed nature of Rugen’s imagery further lends itself the wistfulness many of us associate with fairs, imbuing each shot with a potent sense of childhood expectation and longing.
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