Pleasure Beach - JAMES SHAW (AUTHENTIC AESTHETIC)

I tend to begin these features by referencing where I found said photographer; this is no exception. I came across James Shaw on his YouTube channel: Authentic Aesthetic (yes, I have a YouTube addiction). The particular videos that drew my attention were the ones referring to Pleasure Beach and i keep missing focus but that’s okay because they’re nice photos anyway (we’ll have a feature on this zine coming soon too). Once I viewed the videos, and another about how James outsources the printing of the zines, I ordered each of them without hesitation.

Before we look at the contents of this zine, I first wish to reflect on the cover. James uses a single image to wrap around the whole zine and it’s just stunning. I must admit, I tend to like these covers, but I think this one in particular works very well; the colours work exceptionally well, the railing draws your eye around the cover, the soft texture of the sky contrasting again the sharp edges of the buildings in the background. It’s just very balanced, and it hints as to the narrative of the entire zine.

Pleasure Beach is one of the UK’s top amusement parks, located on the coast in Blackpool. Amusement parks, and particularly those titled Pleasure Beach, are meant to be fun, but this publication tells the story of something completely different. Throughout these images, we begin to understand the hardships that business around amusement parks suffer throughout the year. 

I want to highlight a few of the images. I could have really chosen any, but I’ll leave some for you to discover should you pick this zine up yourself. These first two images aren’t dissimilar: they both feature neglected, rundown buildings with ‘Fun’ in their titles, though the compositions are quite different. 

In this first image, there many distractions in the frame. There are advertisements of food and an ATM, traffic lights, railings and lights. You get a real sense as to what it’s like to be there. No wonder this place has been neglected and looks so run down. 

This second image is a lot more open. Due to the image being taken from further back, we see how vast and empty this area is. FUN PALACE doesn’t have to fight as hard as Funland to be seen, but it still suffers the same fate of neglect. 

This third and final image is a great contrast to the previous two. Here we have an open area assumably where something once was, but it could also be where something will be. It leaves you in this sense of limbo as to what has been, or what could become. Has this place suffered the same fate as the images before it, or could things be set to change for the better.

Throughout these images, you may have noticed that James has failed to remove dirt of the scans. Initially, I just thought this was sloppy on James’ part, but when you view this whole body of work, you realise it was intentional. There’s an overwhelming sense of neglect throughout the various scenes of Pleasure Beach, but it is also echoed the editing of the images. I think it’s genius.

So, if you’d like to pick up James Shaw’s Pleasure Beach, then please do! I certainly think it’s worth picking up, but I also think it’s worth supporting James. He has a servant heart when it comes to the film community; you can see that in his informative YouTube videos. Also, feel free to check out i keep missing focus but that’s okay because they’re nice photos anyway

If you’d like to see more of James’ work, check out his Instagram account, and don’t forget to subscribe to his YouTube channel!

- MB