Dream City

Dream City is a book about amusementsparks in diverse places in the world by photographer Anoek Steketee and writer Eefje Blankevoort in collaboration with FOTODOK.

During a trip through Iraqi-Kurdistan in 2006, photographer Anoek Steketee and writer Eefje Blankevoort found themselves in the amusement park Dream City in Duhok, an unexciting town near the border with Turkey and Syria. Reports of attacks, kidnappings and sectarian violence filled the newspapers on a daily basis. Meanwhile Kurds, Arabs and American soldiers, Christians and Muslims, Shiites and Sunnis; segments of the Iraqi population that were submerged in a deadly struggle outside the gates, amiably rubbed shoulders in Dream City. Was Dream City an exception?

The amusement park in Iraq has been the starting point of a journey through the constructed world of amusement parks. Between 2006 and 2010, photographer Anoek Steketee and writer Eefje Blankevoort visited amusement parks in Iraq, Rwanda, Lebanon, Israel, the Palestinian Territories, Colombia, Indonesia, China, Turkmenistan and the USA.

Although the cultural, sociological and political context of each place differs, the parks’ uniform appearance forms the universally recognizable backdrop. With their twinkling lights, fairy-tale setting and perfectly manicured gardens, the parks all derive their value from the universal and timeless human need to escape from daily reality in a communal, constructed space. But behind the innocent, light-hearted facade lurks another, more serious reality.

During their travels, it became increasingly apparent to the authors that an amusement park is more than simply a place to have fun. Its origin, location, theme and the kind of visitors it attracts say a great deal about the socio-political relations of the country in which it is situated. Dream City, Iraq, for example, has been built on the grounds of a former military base for Saddam Hussein’s troops. The park became the ultimate symbol of freedom from and victory over Saddam Hussein.

In her work, Anoek Steketee explores the boundaries of documentary photography and the way in which different realities can coexist. In Dream City, she does not show the archetypal amusement park scenes of crowds, movement and enjoyment, but rather looks for tranquillity and alienation in her images of employees, visitors and attractions. The accompanying stories and titles sometimes give the images a completely unexpected context. Dream City is thus also a study of the relationship between image, text and documentary approach.

Dream City (hardcover 24 x 32 cm 168 pages / color) is published by Kehrer Verlag (Germany) and is available in a Dutch and English edition. The book consist of photographs and backgroundstories about the different parks. Price: 39,50 euro.