Photo Essay – State Fair of Texas, 1980s.

by Amy Collier

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© Lynn Lennon, 1985
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Exquisite photography by Lynn Lennon of the landmark annual State Fair of Texas in Dallas, circa 1980s. These images are part of the extensive Central Universities Library (CUL), DeGolyer Library’s digital collections at Southern Methodist University (SMU). See a plethora more. Of note, high-quality versions of these photographs may be obtained for a fee by contacting the library at the email address listed on their site. Unfortunately, I have located little information on Dallas photographer Lynn Lennon, only these books containing her work.

UPDATE: I am so pleased to report Lynn (Lennon) Johnson contacted me earlier this month after she saw this post! She is now 82 years young and although not shooting photography with her prior intensity, she continues to take photos (for herself, for fun) now using a digital camera. I have enjoyed corresponding with her via email the past two weeks and asked her to give us a bit of the back story behind her series of imagery of the State Fair. Please scroll to the bottom of the post to read excerpts of Lynn’s childhood memories of the fair and her self-initiated assignment to shoot this subject over a ten year span…

[ All images © / Southern Methodist University, Central University Libraries, DeGolyer Library ]

Snake – Side show attraction
© Lynn Lennon, 1985

Beheaded But Still Alive attraction
© Lynn Lennon, 1983

Swing ride
© Lynn Lennon, c. 1980s

Installing Big Tex
© Lynn Lennon, c. 1980s

Candy apples stand and ferris wheel at night
© Lynn Lennon, c. 1980s

Girl standing in front of Beheaded But Still Alive attraction
© Lynn Lennon, 1983

Boy pointing in midway area
© Lynn Lennon, c. 1980s

Art Deco statue
Dating from the Texas Centennial 1936, art deco statues are prominent features of the fairgrounds
© Lynn Lennon, 1984

Midway entrance
© Lynn Lennon, c. 1980s

Performing bear – Dr. Pepper circus
© Lynn Lennon, 1984

Tower Building
Houses executive offices and food concessions

© Lynn Lennon, 1984

Wonder World Museum attraction – Freaks and strange animals
© Lynn Lennon, c. 1980s
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In Lynn’s own words:

I have always been a big fan of the Texas State Fair. One of my earliest memories is of my mother taking my older sister and me to the fair. We spent hours looking at the animals—horses, cows, mules, pigs, lambs, chickens—all waiting to be judged. We could put a penny in a machine that would flatten it and imprint it with The State Fair of Texas or The Lord’s Prayer. One of our favorite parts was the food pavilion where many companies gave away samples of food. Some companies gave away souvenirs. [...] We came home loaded with small treasures.

When we were school age, we were given a day off to attend the fair. Groups of girls went together and tried to experience everything in one day. A few years older and we were going with groups of girls and boys. Then we were going with dates, usually a double date in the evening. [...] Then before I knew it, I was taking my own two children and the cycle had started over again.

Then in 1984 when I was immersed in photography, I took on a self-assignment. I decided to photograph at the State Fair every year for ten years. The first few years I went every day of the two weeks that the fair ran. I started early in the morning before the gates were open and stayed until dark or until I was too fatigued to go on. There was so much to see and capture on film—the animals, the performers, the midway, the changing weather. One year I even went the day after the fair closed to record the clean-up and dismantling. [...] The fair was so rich with visual images that I seemed to see a scene that I wanted to shoot at every turn. After three years, I didn’t go as often. There was a lot of duplication. Nevertheless I did go for several days each year until 1993 when the ten years expired.

Thank you Lynn for sharing this with us!

 

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