16 July 2009

‘The Parade’ - Jeff Scher

‘The Parade’

The streets of the city are a non-stop parade of humanity. It’s a kind of grand, unchoreographed ballet of human locomotion. One of the great pleasures and measures of being urban is losing yourself in the crowd, with your feet and mind wandering, alone in your head but elbow to elbow with an inexhaustible supply of strangers.

The street etiquette of avoiding eye contact lets us go about our business without the distraction of interaction. Most people wear the New York “street face.” It’s a kind of neutral expression with a touch of “don’t mess with me.” It has a do-not-disturb aura. But the truth is that everyone is looking at everyone else all the time. It’s done on the sly, looking away when caught, often with instinctive pretense (as in, I wasn’t looking at you, but at that very interesting doorknob just behind you).

We can’t help it. We are fascinated by faces and bodies alike. Every face tells a story, and the story is a mystery. The clues abound and we read them instinctively in the blink of an eye. We categorize one another as bums, businessmen, tourists, models, etc., almost unconsciously. But what fun it is to stare, and revel in the passing faces, reading wardrobe, ethnicity, posture, age. Indeed, it’s a feast with every possible variation of the species on parade. By walking in their midst we too become a part of the constantly changing people-scape and offer our own version of the mystery.

Walking is life at its most immediate. The combination of people and places changes constantly and never repeats. It makes you small in the face of sheer numbers, but at the same time it’s reassuring. It’s nice to be one of the fish in this teeming sea.

This film is an attempt to capture the feeling of looking at people. And it’s o.k. to stare, they are only flickering watercolor ghosts of people observed fleetingly on a summer afternoon in midtown. Shay Lynch’s score adds drama to the mystery.


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