Ward Roberts’ colorful basketball court photographs look like playgrounds from after the apocalypse. I found them on Tumblr and couldn’t get enough.
The tropical public spaces that Ward records are abandoned. No people or players. The empty courts with neatly painted baselines have this mix of careful human attention to detail and impersonal detachment. It’s totally spooky and rad.
I wanted to see more, but I had no idea who the photographer was. Nobody gave any attribution. So I went down a deep Tumblr rabbit hole to find their source… No luck. Only after some hardcore reverse-Google-Image-searching did Ward Roberts’ name finally pop-up.
I discovered that Ward’s court photographs are showing right now in NYC’s new TUNICA gallery, so I got in touch to ask him a few questions about his thoughts on Tumblr.
Filed under: Art, Basketball, Bread City, New York City, Photography | Tags: Google Satellite View, Jenny Odell, Photography
Jenny Odell makes collages from Google Maps’ satellite view mode, like the digital print entitled Every Basketball Court in Manhattan. She writes, “From this view, the lines that make up basketball courts… become like hieroglyphs that read: people were here.”
There are at least 100 in this image. Still, there’s no way she got them all. My favorite courts are somehow obscured. Some are partially hidden from view in chain-link rooftop domes. Others are concealed below the West Side Highway, so safe from the elements that you can play a pick-up game in a hurricane. And many are simple backboards in schoolyards without lines or marks.
But Odell is right about one thing: The court is a record. There are no written accounts or pick-up game historians. The physical court itself is the only proof we have of what happened there.