Bill Yates – Images Of 1973 Tampa

A few days ago I came across an article in an English newspaper all about an American photographer who had just discovered a box full of negatives of photos he had taken in Tampa Florida in 1973, and never actually looked at in all the following years.

Bill Yates is the photographer and this set of images of a roller skating rink that he visited in 1973 looking for subjects to photograph while he was studying to become a professional photographer powerfully document how life was back in 1973 for a lot of people in the USA, and Europe too.



Apparently he went out one evening looking for subjects to photograph and came across the Sweetheart Skating Rink by pure chance, went in and proceeded to take a series of photos, most of which in themselves and at that time, were not of any special interest, and he only saw them as a technical exercise in taking photos of people.  However, looking at them in 2016 they have a very different function – they have become a fascinating window into a sort of world that may still exist, but will look very different in so many ways.

For example, look at these images and tell me what it shows that would be totally impossible in the Western World today……

smoking kids smoking kids02

smoking again

See what I mean?

Not only people smoking inside a public place, but kids smoking!   In China or the Philippines this would not surprise me one bit, but it would be impossible today in any first world country I reckon.

That aspect of life back then aside, not much else has changed really, even though we might like to think it has.   Young men still go hunting for young women, young women go out looking to be hunted by young men – boys try and look macho, girls try and look sexy…  Ah well..


Not sure why that idiot is pointing a pistol at his head, but then gun owners always leave me bemused.


And as happens today, sometimes young men get it slightly wrong…      One very shocked girl here.

shocked girl

I was also taken with the different sorts of roller skates they could hire there, ranging from the classic heavy duty leather workboot type through to rather fetching furry ones, as below…

furry boots


As well as simply skating, the evening’s entertainment in the skating rink went much further, both DJ’s (How this has changed!!) through to live music and dancing were also on offer there.


dancing couple

Some of the expressions in the background are worth looking at, some of them are really curious I feel.

live music

Another pleasing aspect of this place and time, the entire family went there together, so you have a wonderful mix of kids, including very young ones, teenagers and their parents, all mixed happily (or mostly happily) up together, as you can see in the following images.2CC30E1900000578-0-image-a-29_1443221198125 2CC30E0B00000578-0-image-a-32_1443221204001

Curious to see that V sign thing with the fingers back then, I always thought it was something that had started in Asia in the 21st century.  Though come to think of it… Perhaps what we see here is in fact the classic English “V” and the classic American middle finger.. hmmmm…


I hope and trust that was not a bottle of beer!

And of course, some kids couldn’t keep up and gave in and went to sleep….

sleeping kid

And not all parents were so happy to be there either….  I suspect these two were there to make sure their kid didn’t misbehave in some way…


And obviously, some of the youngsters didn’t really have such a good time either….  This photo has a very haunting quality I feel…. What was she thinking about I wonder…

thoughtful girl

And here are a couple more random images from this collection.



Love this one, father skating happily around with his baby in his arms…  This would probably be illegal today, on Health And Safety grounds..   But great to see.

So, there you have it, a random collection of powerful images of life in the last century.  And as always when one looks at photos of people taken a long time ago, one wonders about how their lives went afterwards.

Teacher’s resource:

As ever with this sort of imagery, there have to be stories to be told based on one or more of these images.  If you are a teacher, show them to your pupils and challenge them to come up with a story based on these images…    And then come back and let me know what came of that challenge.

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