Book Review: American Fair by Pamela Littky

Del Mar, California

It is easy to visually recall projects and work by photographers who document places or people outside the comfort zone of most people; photos of people who some would consider to be in the margins of society. In general, it is hardly new or unique to photograph people who live interesting lives apart from mainstream society, yet Littky’s project American Fair is fresh and interesting. Her approach to capturing the essence of a contemporary fair in America hits all the right notes. She captures the various events, components, and pageantry of this celebration of community, while keeping the idea of commonality in the forefront. While each fair does not represent the melting pot that America might like to claim as its bedrock, the viewer can hopefully identify with the themes of life which play out at each event. Excitement, hard work, competition, success or failure, and even heartbreak can play out over the course of the fair schedule.

Jackson, Mississippi
Gordon, Nebraska

Littky has a gift of capturing the still, poignant moments amidst the frantic scene of the midway. Likewise, she shows the viewer insightful slices of the fair experience in a knowing glance from a tired worker, the humorous contrast between young women dressed to the nines in a sheep barn, or the soft glow of lights from a snack stand theatrically illuminating the heavily trodden dirt surrounding it.

Dodge City, Kansas
Jackson, Mississippi

In my own city, the fairgrounds are far from the center of town; toward the margins, if you will. The annual county fair draws people from all aspects of the community to a single place. The photos Littky captured at the edge of the fairgrounds make a great metaphor for the physical and social way the fair highlights the sense of the separate-ness, while striking a balance with her approach of communal society. The attraction of the lights and sounds draw people from where they normally live, into a reality-based theatrical world. As she puts it in her book, “these fairs continue to draw people from all backgrounds and upbringings. They celebrate the heartland. They celebrate diversity. They celebrate community. And by doing so, they showcase the power and meaning of some of the most unifying and nostalgic ideals of our American culture and society.”

Indianapolis, Indiana
Sedalia, Missouri
Cimarron, Kansas

During this period when America seems to dwell more on what divides the nation than what binds it, Littky sought to use her skill as a photographer to embrace the common traditions that are still going strong and that connect us on the most basic human level.

American Fair
ISBN 978–3–86828–820–9
9.5" x 11.8"
160 pages
103 illustrations

Los Angeles based photographer Pamela Littky has been producing award-winning, iconic images of high profile personalities for over fifteen years. Her portraits capture well-known subjects in seemingly unguarded moments. In between shoots of world-famous actors and musicians for top commercial and editorial clients, Littky pursues personal projects that show a decidedly less glamorous but equally compelling side of American culture. Her work is held in private collections and has been exhibited in galleries across the world.

To read more about Pamela Littky, and see more of her work, please visit her website:

To order a copy of American Fair, please visit Kehrer Verlag’s website here:

You can also see Littky’s work in the exihibition US BLUES July 14 — September 8, 2018 at Kehrer Galerie, Germany

Originally published at F-Stop Magazine.