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Colin O’Brien at the Fair

September 8, 2013
by the gentle author

Last month, after Colin O’Brien & I interviewed Anna Carter of Carters’ Steam Fair in Victoria Park, Colin went back alone to take photographs of the fair in action, which I am delighted to publish today alongside a selection of his earlier fairground pictures stretching back over half a century.

“I can remember when I first went to the fair, it was 1946 when I was six years old,” Colin admitted to me fondly, “My father came back from the war in 1945 and took me to the Victory celebrations in Piccadilly Circus, but I was scared of the crowds – so, the next year, he took me to the fair on Hampstead Heath and I wasn’t scared of the crowd because I liked the movement and the colour. I always feel safe in a fairground crowd just as I do in a market crowd, and I love the cries of the stallholders. But I don’t like the rides so much, I’m scared of the Big Dipper and I’ve never been on it to this day. My favourite has always been the Dodgems, even before I could drive and it was my father at the wheel, it was fantastic.”

Colin’s fairground pictures fascinate me because, in spite of all the changes in the world, there are many instances where the rides themselves have barely changed at all. “It is has been a formative subject in my photography because, when I didn’t have any money and couldn’t afford to go on the rides, I used to take pictures instead,” Colin told to me, revealing how he compensated imaginatively for his own for lack of resources and how that fired his creativity during those threadbare years.

Rather than feeling excluded, Colin delights in witnessing others’ joy. “Fairgrounds are a wonderful subject, because I enjoy seeing people enjoying themselves and, during the war and after the war, people didn’t get many opportunities to enjoy themselves,” he confided to me.

Photographs copyright © Colin O’Brien

Carters Steam Fair is at Westway Common, Caterham, this weekend and at Croxley Green next weekend, 14th & 15th September.

You may like to look at these other pictures by Colin O’Brien

Colin O’Brien, Photographer

Colin O’Brien’s Clerkenwell Car Crashes

Colin O’Brien’s Kids on the Street

Gina’s Restaurant Portraits

Travellers’ Children in London Fields

Colin O’Brien’s Brick Lane Market

Colin O’Brien Goes Back To School

At Colin O’Brien’s Flat

At Clerkenwell Fire Station

5 Responses leave one →
  1. September 8, 2013

    Lovely photos, I always waited for the fair at Victoria Park as a kid. Love the B/W photos os the guys in their ties and suits sliding down the helter-skelter! Valerie

  2. Ros permalink
    September 9, 2013

    marvellous photos old and new – I loved all of them.

  3. Alex Pink permalink
    September 9, 2013

    Interesting photo essay. Beautifully captured candid moments, and wonderful to see Colin’s sense of humor creeping through.

  4. Cherub permalink
    September 9, 2013

    Love the all the fun of the fair photos, but I am absolutely terrified of dodgem cars. When I was child my late mother would take me on them and proceed to drive like a maniac. Good job she never had a real car I think :-)

  5. September 12, 2013

    Great pics Colin. Many thanks!

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