Paul Hiller

Swing Around

Munich-based photographer Paul Hiller’s dreamy work has been on our radar for a while, so it is our privilege to feature a mini interview with him on the Pocko Times! Travelling around the world to places such as Coney Island, Santa Monica, Hanayashiki, Bejing, Kalkar (Rhein), and many others, Paul’s preferred subject is the amusement park. He intently shows the viewer these venues of entertainment as places of quietness and often melancholy, but also focuses on the immenseness of the thrills and the nostalgia, breathtaking rides and some historic merry-go-rounds. The reality of everyday life is put on pause in favour of these sweet impressions and moments of carefree abandonment. 

This fairytale candy-coloured world that we see in his photographs often appears quiet and almost peaceful, but reflect for just a moment longer and these landscapes sculpted for happiness reveal a profound sadness. By intently photographing the morbidity of amusement parks, that is showing their ultimate impermanence, and the melancholy of its customers, the artist questions consumer society and capitalism. What is fun and pleasurable today is fading and unwanted tomorrow. 

Above left: Candy; Above right: Fire Chief

What first drew you to the parks?

Actually my first contact with an amusement park was more accidental. My first steps in photography started with cityscapes and landscapes I found on my travels. On a huge road trip across the USA in 2007 I found my first amusement park: Santa Cruz Beachwalk. This place was fascinating for me. From this time onwards I began to search and collect these pleasure grounds all over the world.

Has there been one particular park that left a strong impression?

A very strong impression was left by the park “Kernies Wunderland”. It’s in Germany near the border of the Netherlands and it is built into a never-used nuclear power station. Another really special place is the Hanayashiki Amusment Park in Tokyo. It opened in 1853! And is now the oldest amusement park in Japan. But what’s really unusual for me is that this park is very compact and concentrated – it fits in an entire space not bigger then a soccer field – and it is located directly next to houses, hotels and the historical Edo temple.

Above: Hirakata Wheel

Have you made any interesting observations about the people you photograph in these parks?

The people in my photos are only side issues. I try to take portraits of the parks and capture the moods and atmospheres I feel there. Of course there a differences between people from China and from Europe at such places. People from China for example ignore every danger sign. All the Visitors have one thing in common: they try to escape from there own reality and they would like to have kind of a mini holiday.

Is there one photograph that means the most to you, and why?

Actually not. Every Photograph I publish has a special meaning for me… If I have to choose one, I would take one from my recent Coney Island series (pictured below).

Above: Brooklyn Flyer

Clockwise from above left: Red Rabbit; Corkscrew; Hanayashiki Swan; Hanayashiki I 

Above: Kernies Riesenrad

Below left: Santa Monica Wheel; Below right: Swing Around

The people in my photographs are side issues. I try to take portraits of the parks and capture the moods and atmospheres I feel there

Clockwise from above left: Vanisch; Hanayashiki II; Vulcano; Hirakata Coaster

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