I keep writing about cities and towns and the need to fully understand urban perspective, and tell a tale below to explain why. I use a photograph and musical “assists” to show what might be already obvious to some: We interpret the city depending upon our experience and orientation.

This photograph could be attached to social media, declaring cycling as the answer to post-pandemic travel. A companion tweet could read “a bicycle infrastructure means no cars on the river, as it should be.” While there’s nothing wrong with that tweet, it’s not the whole story.

The sharpest rendering in this photograph is tree leaves, rather than watercraft, signage, the River Thames, or Richmond Bridge. But the focus is on a couple, their activity, and their bicycles. They might not be the crispest part of the image, but this is intentional because their circumstance is likely the underlying story.

The anthropologist would log their activity with diligence, probably noting the importance of the riverside setting. The fiction writer might explore how they met and for whom the pose awaits. The artist might sketch, or paint some or all of what is pictured here, and emphasize the color green.

The landscape architect might take due note of that color, and the assemblage of water, vegetation, and stone, and build them into a future design. Those who champion nature in the city would celebrate the mental health benefits of such a mixture. The architect or historian might tell us, in a knowing tone, about the style and tradition of the arches or of the ferries that came before.

Yet, some local music might encourage urban perspective as follows:

Although your mind’s opaque
Try thinking more if just for your own sake
The future still looks good
And you’ve got time to rectify
All the things that you should

“Think for Yourself,” The Beatles

Just as the paragraphs above connect and build upon each other, so do the elements of the photograph. The composition suggests how these interactions occur, but not what they mean, or from which urban perspective. Meaning and perspective are for you, the viewer, to decide.

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