Bill Yates: The Sweetheart Roller Skating Rink

Bill Yates The Sweetheart Roller Skating Rink

There really is nothing more heart warming than a story of great photography unearthed from the depths of time. Please take a moment to marvel at these examples by Bill Yates, taken forty years ago, then left to languish in boxes until just a few years ago.

Long story short, Yates first picked up a box brownie camera at the age of ten, then after a stint in the Navy went on to do a BA in Art and Photography at the University of South Florida. He stumbled upon the Sweetheart Roller Skating Rink by chance, striking up a conversation with the owner outside, who agreed to let him come by with his camera when the joint was full of kids. He then spent seven months visiting on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, creating a body of some 900 images.

What he captured is an unselfconscious confidence of 70s teens in an era when having a camera in your face 24/7 was so not the norm. They seem unfazed by his presence. I imagine after seven months, he was either just part of the scenery or had worked to gain their trust (or both, a la that other youth documenter, Joseph Szabo).
Bill Yates The Sweetheart Roller Skating Rink
Bill Yates The Sweetheart Roller Skating Rink
Bill Yates The Sweetheart Roller Skating Rink
The styling is wonderful, and you know how I feel about a roller skating scenario. This was the early 70s, a time of relative innocence in sleepy Tampa Bay, Florida, which hadn’t yet succumbed to the commerciality of Disney World. As Yates told the British Journal of Photography, “Now the orange groves have turned into plastic motels and hotels. Back then nobody had cellphones or cameras, there was no cable TV. They were just into themselves and each other.”
Bill Yates The Sweetheart Roller Skating Rink
Bill Yates The Sweetheart Roller Skating Rink

Read more about The Sweetheart Roller Skating Rink series here and check out the accompanying book here.

WORDS: Disneyrollergirl/Navaz Batliwalla
IMAGES: © Bill Yates
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