"My imagination makes me human and makes me a fool; it gives me the world and exiles me from it."
— Ursula LeGuin
Each spring a massive temporary city is erected on the flood plain of the Santa Fe Dam outside of Los Angeles, California. For roughly two months this site is transformed in to Port Depford, a made-up English coastal town in the midst of its May festival circa 1580. Coincidentally, it is also the current home of The Original Renaissance Pleasure Faire. Though it can now host as many as 25,000 vistors and staff in a weekend, it was started in 1963 by a teacher and her husband as a small backyard event to give their students a more creative alternative to classroom learning. This event lays claim to being the first in the lineage of many similar carnivalesque living-history events across America, colloquially called Ren Faires.
Port Depford is simultaneously one of the main attractions and main voices in this fantasy Mardi Gras. But the structures that make up Port Depford, which these photographs explore, have another critical task aside from the purely functional use of housing people and and serving as storage for goods to sell. The city is the infrastructure of imagination — a massive, interactive stage set filled with cues, conventions, tropes, murmurs, and disguises designed to loose the bounds of time and space and immerse it's inhabitants in the messy flow of history. As an aggregate, the city forms a virtual effigy of history, a performed landscape.
For all the blowing dust, bawdy noise, greasy food and barnyard smells, the actual landscape of the Faire has an air of pastoral anarchy their willfully playful relationship between imagination and landscape. The camera is the tool to contemplate the ever-shifting chimera of Port Depford as a thriving historical ecosystem with a multitude of conflicting versions of itself proudly woven through and around each other. There are endless potential narratives, both epic and humble, in the frozen moments of these constructed realms. But these narratives, instead of yelling at you to choose only one, whisper that it is okay for your imagination's conflicting desires to exist all at once. These momentary tableaus are forever fixed by photographic interjection at the razor's edge between reality and artifice; between plywood-set and lyric mediation.