Sweetheart Roller Skating Rink: Forty Years Later
Now and again, you happen upon something that just leaves you stunned in utter amazement. Such was the case over forty years ago when I drove up to the Sweetheart Roller Skating Rink, and so it is today. It was September 1972, and I had just purchased a medium format, twin lens camera and, as usual, I was out riding around looking for something to shoot. I happened upon an old wooden structure built in the 1930’s in what was then the outskirts of Tampa, Florida. The sign on the building read "Sweetheart Roller Skating." The owner was just driving up. "Mind if I shoot some pics?" I asked. "Sure, but if you want some good ones, come back tonight – this place will be jumpin'." That weekend, I ran eight rolls through the camera. After that night, I photographed nearly every weekend for the next six months, until late spring of 1973. I was twenty-five years old.
The Sweetheart proof sheets and negatives lay in a box for nearly forty years until recently when, at the urging of my family, I finally got it together to start dealing with my older work… to get my photographic house in order, so to speak. The first set of boxes I pulled out of storage was the Sweetheart project. I scanned nearly 800 negatives that I shot during my six months at Sweetheart, did a hard edit, submitted to the PhotoLucida Critical Mass portfolio review, and was selected as a 2013 Top 50 Winner. That led to being featured in Aline Smithson's fine art photography blog, LENSCRATCH, Slate BEHOLD - Photoblog, the BBC World Service, The Boston Globe, Julie Grahame's aCurator Magazine/Blog, Black & White Magazine (United Kingdom), HATJE CANTZ fotoblog (Germany), Bitter Southerner, and the UK Daily Mail, just to name a few. A solo exhibition of gelatin silver prints at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans opened in October 2015 and ran through January of this year. More than 25,000 museum visitors viewed the exhibition.
Revisiting this visual time capsule of vintage prints, editing the proof sheets and scans, printing in the lab for upcoming exhibitions, and preparing to publish this book with Fall Line Press, so much has come back to me, especially the emotional dynamics of the rink scene. Remember, it was the early 1970’s and "the times, they were-a-changin'.” Those times were all about the "great upheaval in the social fabric of America" – the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, the Sexual Revolution, the Women's Movement, the counterculture, political protests, drugs, and music. “Old Florida,” central Florida, would soon be paved over by suburban sprawl to accommodate Disney World that opened the year before. The kids at Sweetheart were in the thick of it.
The Sweetheart photographs are more than just a document of the rink at that particular place in time. Sweetheart is also about those of us who grew up in suburbia or small town America, hanging out at our own local roller skating rinks. Many people have their own memories of a gathering place like Sweetheart – a place to escape, have fun, be mischievous, let loose, listen to music, hang out with friends, and grow up.
Bill Yates, Photographer www.sweetheartrollerskatingrink.com
Sweetheart: The Book Details
An object of art unto itself, the Sweetheart book will feature approximately seventy-five plates and essays by two authors of photographic renown.
- The book will be a hardcover, smythe-sewn, fine art photography book in a large trim size of 11 1/2 x 11" and will be approximately 156 pages.
- It will also feature high-end stochastic printing on archival paper with varnish on all photographs.
- The case will be covered in a fine weave linen cloth and wrapped in a French-fold jacket printed with stochastic screening and finished with flood matte lamination and spot UV varnish.
We believe Kickstarter is, above all else, a way of building community. It is also a way to tell the story of why we are raising the money needed to make a world-class photography book. Fall Line Press is supporting photographer Bill Yates in this Kickstarter campaign because we believe deeply in the Sweetheart project and we know the book cannot be realized without your support. If you join us in this effort, be assured we will not disappoint you. Together, we will produce a book that reminds us all about what it was like to be young and free-spirited in the American heartland during the early 1970s. You will play a key role in the making of a landmark book.
Classic documentary photography, at its best, is a transcendent path back to the people of another place and time. Sweetheart Roller Skating Rink is a royal road to that special time in 1972-1973 -- when the love generation in America was at its height. The U.S. was reeling from years of war and turbulent social change and progress, but the early 70s was still a time of innocence and exploration. Sweetheart shows us the joyful vigor, fashion, and play of that young crowd searching for fun, escape, and identity in a roller rink on the outskirts of Tampa, Florida.
Bill Yates’ Sweetheart is a recently uncovered masterpiece that reveals, in a candid and clear-eyed way, a time that you only thought you knew. The photographic gaze of the twenty-five-year-old Yates is exceptional. Freshly returned from his tour of military service, Yates was still young enough to understand and relate to this crowd – but no longer part of their world. There is a raw power of deep seeing here. His camera and stance toward his subjects assumes nothing. And therefore it reveals everything. This document is one for the ages. We are fortunate to have it, and Fall Line Press is grateful to be associated with bringing it to you.
William Boling, Publisher www.falllinepress.com
Please Join Us
We hope you, the Kickstarter community, will help support the Fall Line Press publication of this book of photographs, Bill's first monograph. The book has been edited, designed, and is in pre-press production. We’re on track to release Sweetheart in the autumn of 2016.
After making your pledge, please help us spread the word by contacting your friends about our Kickstarter campaign. Thank you!
A Preview of Backer Rewards
Take-a-look! Scroll to the end for larger views of prints and cards
Take a look! Scroll down for larger views of prints and cards.
The risks and challenges of publishing a photobook include the possibility of delay, but Fall Line Press is experienced in these challenges and, with realization of our goal, we will ensure the book is published by October of 2016, in time for the Sweetheart Roller Skating Rink exhibition presented by Mary Stanley Studio during the Atlanta Celebrates Photography photo festival.
Use of Funds
Creating an important, top-tier documentary photography book in an edition of 1000 requires the technical, design, editing, writing, and printing talents of a team of dedicated professionals. If this campaign is successful, 100% of the proceeds from Kickstarter will be applied to the direct costs of producing what we expect will become a lasting contribution to the documentary field.
Your support will ensure that the book will be produced at the same level of excellence as the photographs originally captured and lovingly safeguarded for the past forty years. We strive to realize in book form the same exceptional, beautiful craftsmanship seen in the gelatin silver prints exhibited last fall at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans. You will find a complete, detailed description of our book on this Kickstarter page.
After pledging your support, please help spread the word about this project to your friends.