Photo Essay

Designated fun zone

What happened to playing outside?

It was another warm afternoon here in Houston. I live in a suburban neighborhood with a playground behind my house in a small park. I have wanted to take the time to go and see what artistic opportunities I could find around the playground and finally got the chance (a.k.a. I remembered and there happened to not be any kids there). Like I mentioned before, it was warm, which is probably why there wasn't many kids around. There was a beautiful blue sky with the occasional cloud lingering around here and there.

Starting off, I didn't really know where to start. Since I had hopped over my back fence to get to the park, I just started with the closest thing to me, the digging tool. I remembered some of my plentiful imagination adventures where I was a pirate, digging for gold and burried treasure. I never found any, but it was always fun to pretend. I proceeded to inspect one of the slides. I kind of wanted to climb up them and look down to try that perspective, but I settled for an odd perspective from the side. (I kind of had that "What is that?" theme stuck in the back of my mind for that picture). I started exploring some of the other structures and fondly recalled the games of tag I had played on playgrounds as a child (and even as a college student...long story). The game where someone was "it", and you could only be tagged if you touched the sand. Being the playful children we were, we wouldn't just stay on the structure and stay safe, no, we would try to almost get caught. Get as close to getting tagged as possible to achieve both the satisfaction on victory and rubbing it in the face of the "it" kid. Looking down at the sand, judging the distance to the next structure while doing the mental calculations to see if that person could get to you in time. Of course, the closer your got to getting tagged the bigger the thrill. And if you got tired of sitting on your high horse (or felt sorry for the "it" kid who was bent over from all the running) you would slow down just enough to get "caught", put on a show about how you never thought they would catch you and well, they did. Here came the fun part as well. You could always dare and tease the ones that were now avoiding you like the plague. Challenging them to get past you without getting caught. Some succeeded in getting past you, but victory was ever so sweet when you caught someone (before they felt sorry for you and slowed down ;)) The swings were also loads of fun. Always trying to wrap around it somehow like they showed in the cartoons and yet always being unable to do so. The "cool" jumps we could do off it was also a whole lot of fun. Good times. I tried to pull some abstract photographs from the playground. To be honest, even though I was much too big now for the playground, I found a great amount of joy walking around, thinking about the past while trying to capture an odd perspective. I played around with Manual mode as much as I could. Where the playground would normally serve as a means to teach sharing, gross and fine motor skills to little kids, I found it an excellent way to play with depth of field, aperture and shutterspeed. Good times.

All these memories made me think though. Will the kids of tomorrow, my kids (when I eventually get around to having some), ever enjoy the imaginative play that I got to experience instead of sitting in front of a computer game, be it the Wii, Playstation or XBox? Playing with Legos and making up my own stories were the best part. Imagining the playground as a giant ship, or playing tag. So many important factors to the healthy development of a child. I hope I can somehow help influence my kids to think outside of the box, use their imagination, and use those (hopefully) healthy bodies they were given to explore the wonder that is nature and play.

So here is my salute to the park behind my house, may it be filled with laughter, exploration, and the occasional crying as limits are learned. (Both by kids and photographers ;)) May it never become deserted.

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Hi there!

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—The JPG team

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