By David Friedman
The Parks of Jamaica Plain and Roxbury are the subject of an exhibition of photographs on view until April 8 at the Fort Port Arts Community Gallery at 300 Summer St. Titled “Parks and the City: Conflict and Change”, the images in the show present an interpretation of the parks very different from the familiar one of Olmstead’s great design. The park presented here can be threatening; many of the photographs were made at night, some emphasize the instability of the park environment, others document activities that park planners never imagined and others they explicitly attempted to exclude. The exhibition presents photographs of mental spaces and natural forces and celebrates behaviors impossible elsewhere in the city.
Jen Mawson photographs the parks at night, often around White Stadium. The threat of the dark is not absent from the photos but more powerfully they reveal the freedom that nighttime grants the imagination. Strange colors, a limited field of vision, and obscured forms leave plenty of room for the mind to fill.
Jakob Geiger photographs in the untended areas of the parks focusing on the brambles and vines that have colonized these spaces. He sees the impact of this vegetation as a microcosm of the ongoing transformations that occur everywhere over the surface of the earth.
Navid Haghighi Mood compares the parks in Boston with those of his native Iran. The park idea belongs to both countries but different cultures and different forms of recreation have produced very different ideas of how nature can serve the city. At the same time, Navid finds similarly improbable situations in both park systems. His photographs capture the uncanny, the unlikely, the unbelievable, as part of the truth of human behavior.
David Friedman’s photographs document hidden places carved out of the marginal spaces of the parks for private use. They reveal unauthorized structures and the traces of transgressive behaviors. Though the freedom these artifacts imply may be unintended, it adds another audience to the population accommodated by the parks.