Growing up in a city or suburb, the playground was an indispensable part of childhood recreation. But the slides, swings, and see-saws you remember from decades ago barely resemble modern playground equipment. The photography in Brenda Biondo's Once Upon a Playground captures the faded glory of the 20th century relics.

Biondo's project grew out of a nostalgia and sense of loss in seeing old playground equipment eroding around her home state of Colorado:

I thought that was a shame because so many generations of Americans grew up playing on that type of equipment — it was part of their personal histories, and also part of the cultural history of the country. And as far as I could tell, no institution was collecting it, not even the Smithsonian, even though these pieces are really icons of American childhood. So I decided to try and document as much of it as I could over the next several years.

The structures in Biondo's images date between 19250-1975, after which safety concerns and regulations led to more restrained playgrounds replacing the old ones. Some would argue that modern playgrounds are a bit too safe. I can remember the fleeting sense of risk when scaling that tall and rickety aluminum slide as a young kid. Having those fears and facing them at a young age seems to be a positive developmental experience, although falling and cracking your skull open doesn't seem so positive.


Despite the change, the old equipment is a fascinating example of vernacular design in America. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be much in the way of preservation or collecting efforts that would memorialize the playgrounds of the past. If you have a photo of a childhood playground that now seems ancient, put it in the comments below! [LensCulture]