Ying Yin Revisits Abandoned Theme Park Once a Shrine to the American Dream

All photos by Ying Yin. Used with Creative Commons permission.

There’s a myriad of things, events, and places that define and symbolize childhood for us, but theme parks certainly among the ones on top of the list. For Shanghai-based photographer and photo editor Ying Yin, it was the curiously named American Dream Park, which, as its name indicates, showcased structures depicting American-inspired architecture. It has been closed and abandoned for decades, but that didn’t stop her from taking a trip down memory lane and bringing home some photographic mementos.

Ying ended up with a wistful collection of photos that she aptly called Abandoned Wonderland. American Dream Park was just one of the theme parks that her parents took her in the 1990s. Most of them, she said, closed down after 10 years due to mismanagement. While abandoned to rot and ruin, what remains of it continue to be a symbol of childhood memories for past visitors like Ying.

Abandoned Wonderland has a distinctly retro mood to it, not only because of the subject matter, but also because our photographer shot it in film. It turned out to be the perfect medium to capture and demonstrate the nostalgic value of the place and Ying’s personal story.

“The second time I got back to the American Dream Park, it was abandoned for decade. I can’t remember the day I enjoyed in this theme park when I was young, but this time I know it’s just like a symbol of my childhood.”

As Ying mentions, the crumbling structures are both strange and recognizable, foreign and familiar all at once. A VICE article described the theme park as a shrine to the American dream, a $50 million project built in 1996 on the outskirts of Shanghai. Debt and dwindling visitors soon drove it to close abruptly in 2001. The site has been reportedly purchased by a real estate developer, so it may not be long before the remnants of the park will be completely erased from the town’s history. Only photos like Ying’s Abandoned Wonderland will be around to tell its story.

Visit Ying Yin’s Behance portfolio and Instagram to see the rest of her work.