It's fall, and that means it's time for another installment of Thor Johnson's Texas State Fair Photos. The collection is here: [2.6 MB flash file]. And below are a few examples. I never cease to marvel at the overeating epidemic that seems to have struck the state since I left in '95. More of Johnson's photos, videos, and music here, and an earlier post on him is here. The photos really strike a chord with me--they're like the perfect combo of love and hate, sarcasm and pathos. It's unusual to see this kind of clarity of vision in a photographer--most get all absorbed with technique, as opposed to being a raw, outraged eye opening itself up to all the available stimuli in an environment like this. Somebody could probably take the same "kind" of photos at Coney Island in NY, but I don't think anyone here hates Coney Island or its denizens. Whereas, Texas (especially Dallas, where these are taken) has this layer of righteousness that suffuses ordinary ignorance and exploitation, making it seem more pernicious. I know Johnson loathes the false piety but as I said, there is also love in these photos. I went to the State Fair a number of times and it was always a kick.

Thor Johnson 4

Thor Johnson 3

Thor Johnson 1

Thor Johnson 2

- tom moody 10-11-2006 8:52 pm

I love these photos, I have the residue of a weird Canadian Prairie thing where we all seem to respond to Texas culture and landscape. (minus the gun stuff and the Republican stuff and the Jesus stuff, because we're total communists out there)

I'll bring this up, since I now know that you watch TV (but you'll never love TV as much as I do) Have you seen the new fall show "Friday Night Lights" set in a small Texas football-crazy town?
- L.M. 10-11-2006 9:25 pm

I haven't. Lost is the first series I've followed in a while (non-anime). Have you watched it (FNL)?
- tom moody 10-11-2006 9:38 pm

Yes, and it was advertised as everything I am not interested in, football being the most prominent. (some kids played the game when I was in high school, but we had only 15 minutes of autumn weather out there, once water froze and it was hockey time, so my only connection to American football is a strong aesthetic response to outdoor stadium lighting)

Anyway, after the first five minutes I was in awe of the show. Hand held camera, nice lighting look, terrific casting in a style I'd call "anti-O.C.". The small town American Christian piety and football obsession comes off as heartbreaking, none of the characters are parodies and the whole show has an air of doom, stress and fear. I'm so impressed with the first two episodes, that I'm sure it will be cancelled in a few weeks

Slate gave it a nice review yesterday

- L.M. 10-11-2006 10:07 pm

It sounds like Last Picture Show territory--but more about the kids than the adults. I'd have a hard time with it, I think, since that's a similar milieu to my own West Texas roots and I worked very hard as a kid sidestepping around all the masculinity rituals. (And eventually completely fled.)
- tom moody 10-11-2006 10:25 pm

a little dazed and confused too.
- bill 10-11-2006 10:36 pm

Thanks Tom, thanks L.M.!! It was crazy & fun out there at the Fair. The Marines were out in full force recruiting little teenyboppers (must be at least 15 years old). There did seem to be more obese people than previous years, I wasn't always trying to take pictures of fat people only, there are just so many of them that wherever I pointed the camera, there they were. It makes me scared & sad for everyone & the future of America too.
We are going out to the Fair again this weekend, I did not make it to the Marilyn Monroe butter sculpture or the livestock buildings yet.
I will check out the FNL show, I have read part of the book - it was rather scathing, and a lot of people out there in Permian - Midland - Odessa area apparently hate the author H.G. Bissinger now.
- Thor Johnson (guest) 10-11-2006 11:59 pm

i have fond memories of the TSF. me (age 6) and my brother getting lost in the new car show. then after an hour being found by my dad out front and being in trouble. cotton candy, corny dogs. a military hoovercraft up-down ride (recruiters). and spotting a hero of mine big daddy ed roth air brushing custom rat fink weirdo t shirts. and the wall of death motorcycle driver and other carny types. big tex. winning pigs at the livestock show. winning cake and pie at the homemade food contest. old steam train engines by the cotton bowl.
- bill 10-12-2006 12:08 am

There used to be a real-live "Freak Show" in a big tent at the Fair, they got rid of it that same year Bush #1 spouted his "kinder gentler / 1000 points of light" jargon. I always wondered if those events were somehow connected. They had wierd fetuses in jars, and a guy who said over a distorted PA : "Children of the swamp! They were not meant to be born!!!" Now all they have is teensy horses and huge crocodiles. My favorite freak show was the guy who had supposedly freaked out on PCP and killed his girlfriend, and now he's a vegetable who just sits there and touches himself while chanting his girlfriend's name. He was a fake of course. We would go in there "dazed & confused" ourselves and stand around trying to make him laugh, one time we actually did get him to laugh because we were drinking Coke and making it squirt out of our noses.
- Thor Johnson (guest) 10-12-2006 12:50 am

State fairs sound like the sort of thing I grew up with, I love that crap.

What I get now, in Ontario, is the imperial weirdness of the Royal Winter Fair. Unlike the west, it has a Brit colonial vibe with the occasional presence of minor Royals. The best part's the local high-wasp types (proud British subjects, all of them) in tuxedos and evening gowns looking slightly brain addled as they wonder among the crowds in the middle of the afternoon. Though I have to admit that by the end of the day, the manure stains on the hem of my full-length fall coat singles me out as a total retard as well.

I miss the freak shows too, it sounds like the American ones lasted longer than ours (probably because we smugly embraced our diversity so long ago).

One unique bit of Canadiana was that three years in a row my mom would lose me somewhere on the fairgrounds (because she loved my older brother more) so I remember a distorted PA announcing my name and description ...and I was always retrieved by the RCMP.

- L.M. 10-12-2006 1:38 am

When people get lost at the State Fair of Texas they meet at the hallowed idol of Big Tex.
- Thor Johnson 10-12-2006 5:23 am

Big Tex
- mark 10-12-2006 12:12 pm

Actually, people in the Permian Basin have mellowed following their initial criticism of Buzz Bissinger. First, people in Midland have always known that the Panther fans in Odessa were obsessive. They didn't mind Bissinger pointing those obsessions out to the rest of the world. Better them than their obsessive Midland Lee counterparts for sure. Second, people in Odessa were mad mostly because it made the town seem so run down, poor and bigoted. Time passes, though, and when the movie came out and played down the racial issues and played up the heroic aspects of what the kids were doing, all (at least most) was forgiven.
- anonymous (guest) 10-12-2006 5:59 pm

CBC Newsworld just reported on the racing pigs at the Texas State Fair. Between that and Thor's pictures, I feel like I'm there. (I had no idea that those pot-bellied porcine cuties could run so fast)
- L.M. 10-13-2006 4:00 am

Going today, cooking demontrations and hot tub displays, plus the midway... one of the few things that makes Dallas super cool.
- anonymous (guest) 10-14-2006 5:28 pm

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