I’m something of a Nate Matos fan, I guess. I came late to his Serif & Silver series, and every 6 or 8 months, I pop into his website and buy most or all of the zines he has on offer, leading to the acquisition of his ‘Blandscapes‘ and a group of other zines.
Now, we have the ‘Resort Town’ series, three zines about three resort towns: Rockaway, NY, site of the long-gone Playland amusement park; Anaheim, CA, home of Disneyland; Bombay Beach, CA, who was one of the earliest casualties of human-caused climate change.*
In all cases, Matos wanders the periphery, the side streets, places where the people who make the magic happen live, and where they relax after making the magic happen. (It must be exhausting to be so relentlessly cheerful and positive and buoyant all the time, and maybe they aren’t really… if I ever get around to writing about the week my wife, Mom, and I spent at Disney World.) And the—squalor is the wrong word—reality of these places is largely interchangeable.
Rockaway Beach is a little weekend getaway spot for New Yorkers, with a revolving history of boutique hotel entry and exit. The Playland amusement park, recalled only by the Subway stop that still bears its name, operated there from teh 1920s through the 1980s, but has been long-ago paved over and largely forgotten. The Rockaway Beach captured by Matos is populated by tract homes, many under renovation and my mind immediately goes to flipping, empty streets and other, more obvious symbols of American might: a construction dumpster in red and blue with ‘American’ stenciled on the side; a wet flag draped over a wooden fence. There remain some signs of amusement: a plastic child-sized play slide and one of those bubble car things I always wanted but never got, and both of which still litter backyards and alleyways throughout the country.
Anaheim is sunnier, more suburban than Rockaway beach, with more single-family homes and more obvious separation between the residential and the commercial. Matos takes us on a tour of garbage cans and recycling bins, tract homes, parking lots and driveways, and a fair amount of foliage. Some wrecked cars, but no Disney. This is the Anaheim where I would live, though I probably couldn’t afford the rents. There’s more of an air of prosperity, or enough-ness here than in Rockaway, but it’s still the Resort Town’s underbelly.
Bombay Beach is in the Desert. It’s sunny, like Anaheim, but even more dilapidated and falling-down than Rockaway. There are no tract homes here, or if there are, Matos didn’t find them photographable. Instead, there are mobile homes, trailers, many converted to a more permanent state by the addition of carports and whatnot. The rocks look poured, like something at Disneyland and there’s a big Dinosaur (the Cabazon Brontasaurus, which is nearly 100 miles from Bombay Beach…), but no real resort, not even The Last Resort.
Taken together, these three Resort Town zines point to nothing more or less than Nate Matos’ vision, where he chose to wander and point his camera. I could (and I guess have) made some claims about the content of the pictures, and that’s something I need to work on: the photograph is different than the object(s) it pictures, and I need to talk about photographs rather than the scenes they depict, or in addition to the scenes depicted. Anyway. I appreciate and sympathize with his vision and look forward to encountering more of his work.
Sadly, the Resort Town series is out of stock. In fact, Matos’ store shows everything is out of stock. I know he recently ran a big sale on everything (which stung a bit, as I bought everything full price), so that’s probably it. I hope to see more work soon.
*Look it up… Seriously. Humans made the lake in the 1950s. Humans built a resort there. Humans stopped supplying fresh water to the lake. The desert took back its territory. And now the lake is unswimmable and belches sulfuric acid that can be smelt in Los Angeles…