The magazine of the photo-essay
September 2018 issue
Playground Once
“A free, really high quality photo-essay magazine.  Fabulous!” Stephen Fry. British actor, writer and film maker
by David Freund 
In 2003, as I was driving to Missouri to see her, lifelong friend Eva died at 102. Suddenly at loose on a two-lane Midwestern road, reflecting on death and my Iowa childhood, I stopped to photograph an old playground.  Besides swings, see-saws and slides, there were cannon, war memorials, a picnic area, a cornfield, and a baseball field.  Shade trees and a neighborhood framed this island of play, learning and civic pride.  Tracking down such playgrounds and landscapes absorbed me for two years. I found that old playgrounds, with their grey, unobtrusive equipment, are an endangered species, especially in larger towns and cities.  Because of safety
and liability concerns, they had often been supplanted by bright structures of multicolored plastic and enameled steel.  Thus my nationwide search focussed on small towns where tradition, inertia and budget often conspired to permit America’s early playgrounds to survive. The ones I came upon were largely unoccupied, so for the most part children are only alluded to in footprints, worn paint, and ruts under swings.  Weather, light and viewpoint contribute to narratives suggested by these traces, woven into the testimony of the equipment and surroundings that had first moved me. That said, the straightforward preservation aspect of this project lends it extra significance. As with other species that vanish, one day they are everywhere, the next, gone.
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