We enter the park. This one is Cal Anderson, the social heart of Capitol Hill, a dense and rapidly growing core of Seattle. In this democratic space, images have been gathered from a wide spectrum of the city’s inhabitants. On each of these stills, a social reading has been imposed. The readings, however, are most likely have nothing to do with the reality of these subjects. What we see is: an image and an interpretation. That’s all. Hopefully this experiment will tell us something unexpected about the power of motionless images and the powerful compulsion to interpret.

What happens in the photographic image? Lots of information of what is captured is lost, some information retained, and there is an opening for a kind of interpretation that is specific to this type of image. Let’s unpackage the previous sentence. Most of the information that is lost is related to motion. Movement, as we all know, is also a form of communication. How one walks, the speed with which one turns their head, the motion of one’s arms: we keenly read these actions. They convey information about, among other things, the state of the subject: they are worried about something; they do not want to talk to me; they do indeed love me; and so on. But when the image is frozen in a photograph, we are forced to make interpretations that are at best fuzzy or blurry (I would go as far as to say dubby), even if the photograph is crystal clear. Indeed, we can get better or more reliable information from a corpse than an image. Death is another kind of motionlessness. With the frozen photographic image a living thing is, exactly, alive. (This brings up the subject of photographs of the dead, which I will not address here but Roland Barthes has addressed elsewhere.) The still subject is immediately a social being. But what is he/she communicating? What is he/she saying to us? Despite the absence of a lot useful and crucial information, we are compelled to read the photo because that’s who we are as a deeply social animal. There’s a good reason why many professional poker players wear sunglasses: he/she knows the heart of the human animal, knows that the human is constantly reading the bodies of others of its kind and beyond its kind, knows the activities of human eyes release too much information about the content of a soul. But what do motionless eyes say? A slice of the many things that one might catch when encountering an actual person? Perhaps. But often the motionless eyes and body open a completely different vista from the real, a whole other country that does not in reality have anything to do with the subject. In motionlessness, the subject has the magical capacity to present the viewer with a life that’s not his/her own. Between the stillness of the image and our social need to interpret is this opening. This is the zone Park Life explores. These other vistas and stories glimpsed in that fantastic opening..