“I couldn’t help thinking that if aliens ever landed on Earth and you only had a few hours to help them understand America, all you would have to do is take them to any state fair. For me, a state fair is a microcosm of America—in all its glory and weirdness—at any given point in time.” —Arthur Grace
State Fair is a visual distillation of Arthur Grace’s photographic odyssey through fairs in ten states—California, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia. Time and again, regardless of geographical location, Grace’s images deftly capture the strange mixture of the traditional, the kitsch, and the off-the-wall that is unique to these annual gatherings, which began as a celebration of rural American life and have evolved into super-sized extravaganzas. Whether the photographs show the beaming pride of 4-H egg champions, the intensity of a tattooed arm wrestler, or a forlorn alligator waiting to be “wrestled” in a wading pool, the authenticity of Grace’s imagery is unmistakable. You can almost hear the shouts from the midway, smell the animals in the barns, and taste the cherry pie.
Sure to bring back vivid memories for anyone who’s ever attended a state fair, and bound to entice the uninitiated, State Fair reminds us how much we still crave to go out and have real experiences beyond the fantasies we see on our computer, TV, and movie screens. It shows that far from being an anachronism in the twenty-first century, state fairs are a vital, living tradition throughout America.
Arthur Grace began his professional career in 1973 as a staff photographer for United Press International. During his award-winning career in photojournalism, spanning three decades, he covered stories thorughout the United States and abroad as a contract photographer for Time magazine and a staff photographer for Newsweek magazine. His photographs have appeared regularly in leading magazines worldwide, including on the covers of Life, Time, Newsweek, New York Times Magazine, Paris Match, and Stern. Mr. Grace’s work has been exhibited in museums and galleries both in the United States and in Europe, and his photographs are in the permanent collections of the International Center of Photography in New York City and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Mr. Grace’s previous books include Choose Me: Portraits of a Presidential Race and Comedians. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Debra.