This is a post by guest blogger Ellen Bulger.
I’ve been a lot of different things at different times, but just now I’m a nature nerd with a point & shoot. I always carry a small camera with me. Always. I often shoot natural history subjects, but if the light is good, I will shoot anything. I’ve happily photographed garbage and dumpsters because they happened to be bathed in beautiful light. One of my favorite subjects last winter and spring was a colony of what I believe to be Leptothrix bacteria. Beauty often comes from unexpected sources. The trick is to always be paying attention. In this, art and science are very much alike.
I’ve paid a couple of visits to a splash pad at a public park here in New Haven. Water is always a grand photographic subject, but it is the interaction of water and people that makes a splash pad cool.
Splash pads are wetter than playgrounds, but drier than swimming pools. Splash pads have no standing water, so lifeguards are unnecessary. Swimming skills are irrelevant. This means everyone can play. Remember how much fun it was to run through a sprinkler when you were a tot? It is just as much fun now, at whatever grizzled old age you have attained. Just that little old sprinkler has been reimagined: expanded, tweaked and turbocharged. You have to give a nod to the brilliance of the design. The various water features cycle on and off, forcing the users to move from one element to the next. Very popular are a trio of large buckets that fill and dump their contents from on high. It’s fun to get soaked. It’s fun to watch people get soaked. And it is really fun to photograph people getting soaked.
I’ve been working on it in steps. After my first couple of visits, I realized I needed to pull out my waterproof camera. I don’t mind getting soaked, but I need to keep some fabric dry to wipe the camera lens. So the next step will be to wear a rain slicker so I will have dry pockets (with flaps!) or, at least, dryish pockets. Imagine how that is going to go down. People are going to think I am nutty. These are the things one must suffer for one’s art.
There is a lot of emotional intensity happening under those buckets. On a hot summer day, visitors yearn for that cooling water but often simultaneously flinch away from it. YES! NO! OH! AH! The kids get charged up under the water. But adults as often unwind and relax. You can see it in their faces and limbs and in the curling and uncurling of their spines. Young and old, people become graceful under the spray. Strangers compete for position, then cooperate and share the impact zones. They communicate, often without words: flinching, laughing, grinning fit to split their faces in half. It is compelling. Seeing it, we can FEEL IT. This is empathy rich! Good stuff!
I feel fortunate to live in an area that has a variety of public spaces and activities that are open to everyone. On a hot day, water calls us, all of us. Here we don’t have to sign up for any indoctrination. We can just play. I wish that everyone could enjoy this sort of park and the simple human joy of that is water.