Our desire to give into fantasy and escape everyday life has led to the creation of outlets so seemingly absurd I wonder how we'll be perceived as a species in the far future. We love sitting on the edge of fear, we love movies that are like roller coaster rides, we love to feel out of control, if just for a moment. We don't really concentrate on the finer details. We are seduced into the experience by colorful lights and surreal imagery that in the bright light of day often appears sad and frayed but we suspend disbelief for the sake of fun. Lisa Kereszi is fascinated with such places whether found inside a strip club, on a beachside boardwalk attraction, or in a disco. Her new book from Nazraeli Press, Fun and Games, presents 49 photographs made in such places.
Fun and Games opens as many great books have, with an open doorway. It is almost an obvious joke as Kereszi's doorway was found at the entrance to the Spook-A-Rama on Coney Island. A single wide eye stares back at us before we enter, reminding us that it is all fun and games until someone loses - Ok you get it.
Kereszi's deadpan gaze focuses on the kitsch and the tattered. She emphasizes the poor constructions and wear from use evident on the walls and carpets. In one, the remnants of spilt popcorn litter the ornate carpet pattern of a movie theater. A laughable cliche of a phantom is airbrushed on a disco wall. In another she describes the thin strands of cord hanging from the ceiling which have startled many in the pitch dark of Deno's Spook-A-Rama.
In the light, these small details are center stage and their artifice obvious. Pointing out kitsch for simple laughs is easy to do and many young photographers have been ensnared by such tactics but Kereszi seems to be doing her best to seduce and allow us to be taken in and amused. These are not automatic yucks but resonant images full of hope found in a disappearing landscape that is rarer to experience in our search for high tech entertainment.
As a book Fun and Games sticks to Nazraeli's design and construction. Glossy laminate boards cover the usual large plates and typography. I tend to like the work Nazraeli publishes in their books but I do wish they'd mix up the design and feel of their titles. After so many similar books they seem very formulaic in their book-craft.
Kereszi's first monograph, Fantasies was interesting but the images I responded to the most in that title where the still-lifes and incidental scenes similar to the ones featured here in Fun and Games. This is a tighter edit and altogether better book. She seems more in control, while we, through her photos, may entertain the many ways we wish to lose ourselves in fantasy.