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Long-Exposure Photos of Carnival Rides Over the Decades


Since the early 1970s, photographer Roger Vail has been visiting carnivals and documenting the amusement rides through long exposure photos, which turn them from beastly metal machines into beautiful light shapes.

Creators writes that Vail’s fascination and dedication to this particular subject began in the summer of 1971, when the photographer visited a carnival with his 8×10 view camera.

“I had been shooting at night with a view camera mostly in urban settings and time exposure was necessary,” Vail tells Creators. “That summer I made photographs at a carnival for the first time. I thought I would try one of a Ferris wheel not knowing what it would look like. When I saw the film, I was really surprised and pleased with what I got and couldn’t wait to do more.”

Here are two gelatin silver prints of long exposures Vail made in the early 1970s:

Spinning Carnival Ride, 1971
Spinning Carnival Ride, 1972

Through the years, Vail continued to visit carnivals and add to his growing body of work. Part of his enthusiasm years ago was the fact that the results wouldn’t be seen and known until the film was developed afterward.

Super Round-Up and Moon, 1996, platinum/palladium print on vellum.
YoYo, 1996, gelatin silver print.

In more recent years, Vail has been capturing the same subject in color.

Inverter, 2001, Light Jet (Fuji Crystal Archive) print
Tornado, 2001, Light Jet (Fuji Crystal Archive) print
Wave Swinger #2, 2001, Light Jet (Fuji Crystal Archive) print
Spin Out, 2001, Light Jet (Fuji Crystal Archive) print
Fire Ball #2, 2001, Let Jet (Fuji Crystal Archive) print
Revolution #2, 2001, Light Jet (Fuji Crystal Archive) print

Vail’s work is being exhibited at the Joseph Bellows Gallery in La Jolla, CA, in the Summer Selections exhibition that will run through August 26, 2017.

Image credits: All photographs by Roger Vail and used with the permission of the Joseph Bellows Gallery