Top ten hits intermingle with bad, pulsing 90s techno, as a rumbling bass filters up from the trash-strewn ground to form a head-splitting cacophony, tolerable only to the soundest, youngest, or drunkest of minds. Suburban thugs cheer and holler, the scent of sweat and greasy churros blending in the warm air. Bells go off every couple of minutes to inform visitors of real and imaginary wins nearby, as ring toss victors skulk away from tables, underwhelming prizes tucked under their arms, and are replaced by a new wave of gamblers disguised as fair-goers. Colorful bulbs light up in rapid succession, only to plunge back into chintzy darkness again, preventing eyes from ever fully adjusting, minds from getting their exact bearings. The worst of the club, the fast-food joint and the carnival have united here at Paris’s oldest and largest funfair, Foire du Trône.
All this, and more, has been sublimated beneath the pristine surface of Bohbot’s Jour de Fête, an exercise in the at times laborious reconstruction of memory. At odds with his adult experience of modern-day Foire du Trône are Bohbot’s nostalgic recollections of a whirlwind blur of color and sound, exhilarating rollercoaster plunges, and the incomparable splendor of a vast funfair spread out like an enchanted Candyland city before the starry eyes of his distant childhood self.
Through carefully isolated moments and meticulously chosen light, Bohbot manipulates the photographic medium to reconcile past and present, constructing images that occupy a liminal space between the real and the imaginary. The nightmarish ride dubbed Power Maxxx is captured in such a way that its outlines are reduced to delicate color trails, its violent swinging motion painting hypnotic rainbows across the night sky. ‘A L’Ancienne’ reads the marquee of a massive stand selling all nature of sweets and ice creams, with an old ice cream parlor-style interior and awnings painted in bucolic vignettes. In English ‘à l’ancienne’ translates to ‘the old-fashioned way’, precisely what Bohbot aims to capture: a nostalgic conception of the past whose authenticity, insofar as such a thing exists, is irrelevant. Unlike in other series like Atlantic City or Last Stop – Coney Island, here his aim is not to expose but rather to veil the seediness of the environment, to resurrect, not quell the child’s naïve gaze. With their diffused palette, sense of atmospheric calm, and formal construction, these photographs defy the garish scenes, supplanting them with the softness and order of memory.
Text by Elizabeth Breiner.