In an age where any wanker with an Instagram account can take a picture, whack a black-and-white filter on it and call it ‘deep and meaningful’, the world is sorely lacking in photography that makes a real connection between art and social consciousness. Dave Taylor is not just another wanker. In fact, he’s not a wanker at all. He’s a self-conscious, soft-spoken hipster photographer with view to communicating social change and contrast. With his checked shirt buttoned up to the collar, two-tone tortoise-shell glasses and slightly gingery hair, he is both eager to please and charmingly self-deprecating.
Over slightly lopsided cheese toasties and a splash of whiskey, Dave revealed that he doesn’t photograph with a view to sharing his work—he’s afraid that what he finds interesting, others will deride as just plain weird. He all but admitted that he’s got a secret stash of photographs that he’ll never show anyone, which is a great shame judging by the quality of the work on his website.
In December last year, Dave found himself couch surfing in New Orleans, but he was “shit scared” to leave the apartment because Americans have a predilection for carrying guns. The guy who owned the couch that Dave was sleeping on—who had been arrested in November for trespassing “God knows where”—offered him a guided tour of New Orleans; his host wanted to share the culture and history of the city with the Australian whose knowledge of the area came solely from watching Treme on Foxtel.
The rich cultural and musical heritage of New Orleans is now mostly eclipsed by memories of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which is a great shame because the city is an interesting and complex place that is now mostly unexplored. Dave’s series “Six Flags Under” takes a brave and beautiful stab at rectifying that situation. A broken-down, abandoned fairground in the middle of the world’s richest country is the perfect illustration of how New Orleans has fallen politically since 2005. The park has been inactive since a brief war of writs between City Hall and Six Flags. The site’s lease was broken and the park was left to the mercy of the elements.
Dave took the photographs on an early winter’s day, in weather that was a photographer’s nightmare. It was raining and unseasonably humid, which caused steam to rise into the air and fog to obscure the camera lens. Not to mention that the sheen of rain that lay over everything. But the weather was a blessing in disguise—if anything, it added to the starkness of the photographs. And his camera didn’t let him down; he talks about his Canon 6D like some people talk about their children—“a joy!”
Snapping pictures of an abandoned area that is theoretically public property is technically illegal, but being a badass, Dave said that it added to the excitement of the day; the risk associated with trespassing was thrilling, he admits sheepishly. It was probably the same thrill that motivates exhibitionists and voyeurs. The best of the bunch, according to Dave, is ‘Skycoaster’. Why, you might ask? Well, he “just likes the way it looks”. Ain’t nobody gonna argue with that—he’s the photographer after all.
Dave’s work is inspired by the likes of Brian Ulrich, a reclusive American photographer whose work focuses on financial crisis, malls and the commodity fetish. Amongst Ulrich’s work is a series called “Dark Stores”, which contains Dave’s favourite photograph “Circuit City”, 2008. It fascinates him because it shows a once-popular store that was ‘killed’ by the financial crisis and abandoned—and it’s the exact store where he bought a computer more than a decade ago. “Circuit City” depicts the often-cruel progression of time, just as “Six Flags Under” does. Dave’s abandoned rides echo Ulrich’s abandoned stores.
The theme is pushed still further with Dave’s two austere photographs of the empty car park. The car park is bigger than the whole of Six Flags, and it’s totally deserted save for the odd security guard—the phrase “outta sight, outta mind” seems appropriate here. Especially when you consider that there are probably shoppers fighting for spots near the mall just ten minutes away. Even though Six Flags is technically in the middle of the suburbs, it feels more isolated than ever in these images. Apart from occasional use as a film set and the occasional trespass by a brave photographer, the former amusement park is just wasting away. And Dave’s love for every part of New Orleans, even the abandoned parts, shines through his whole series.
Dave’s clandestine visit to the former amusement park paid off, in more ways than one. Hurricane Katrina left an indelible mark on the city—physically and mentally—which is documented beautifully in his work. The site was left to decay, but so were other parts of the town; a house or two surrounded by stretches of dirt and grass where neighbouring houses used to be is a common sight in New Orleans. Being unable to photograph the entire city, Dave found the one place that perfectly allegorises the city’s decline from Paradise to purgatory. And he did a bang up job.
If you want to shine a light on what matters to you, head over to the Canon Shine page and check out the competition because no one sees it like you.