Bill Yates: Sweetheart Roller Skating Rink


Better known for his aerial photography, Floridian Bill Yates recently revisited a box of negs and prints from two seasons of photographing at the Sweetheart Roller Skating Rink in the 70s. Editing 800 shots could not have been easy - I've had a hard enough time choosing what to publish in the magazine. Thanks to Bill for making the effort to get this fabulous body of work digitized and out there. An exhibition showed recently at Gallery Kayafas in Boston, and it was just announced that images from the series have won a place on The Fence in Atlanta and Houston later this year. An exhibition will also be opening at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans, on Oct. 3rd, 2015. Expect to see more!

"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 the Six Mile Creek area of rural southern Hillsborough County, Tampa, FL. 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 in September 1972, I ran eight rolls through the camera. After that I photographed nearly every weekend until late spring of 1973. I was twenty-six years-old.

"That first weekend I was met with curiosity and suspicion by the skaters. The next weekend I returned with proof sheets which I stapled to the wooden siding of the rink's interior. For some, complete disinterest in the images. For others, it was as if they were staring at themselves in the mirror for the first time, as though they had rarely seen photographs of themselves -- they couldn't get enough. The skaters became like actors parading their bodies, confronting one another, competing for an audience -- the camera. Though the skaters may not have thought of themselves on a stage, they were no less explicit and physical in their stagecraft. Some of the scenes were unapologetically theatrical. Young men aggressively wrapping arms around their girlfriends' necks, gesturing uncomfortably for the camera -- a sexual come-on, an uncensored performance. Yet others were deadpan. I soon became wallpaper -- I was there, but I wasn't -- just snapping the shutter." Read more on the Sweetheart website.


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