We watched them jump
from one precarious ledge to another and climb
concrete walls and do back flips
in the sun,
long shadows landing on green grass.
Running and vaulting and spinning
on an imaginary axis.
Every single move calculated and linked
to a single breath.
In the housing estate
a hundred red doors,
each the same as the next,
and buildings with names of classic authors and poets,
and the sounds of rough kids
playing rough games, shouting
“Hey! whatchu taking pictures at?“,
in a thick north london accent.
“The sky“, I said,
convincing myself that I wasn’t intimidated.
The photography teacher talked about the philosophy of parkour
in an environment much different from the one we were heading to.
The prestigious RIBA,
a library rich with the works of a thousand architects,
buildings made of marble and steel.
He talked about the martial arts-like focus
of the man who looks danger in the eye and then defies it.
“What they do looks unsafe“, he said,
“but watch their faces the split second before they jump…
the intense focus, how they already see
the goal and there is
The troubles at home,
the pressures of life in “the hood”,
the general uneasiness of teenage years – that chrysalis of life,
the quiescent mind of childhood breaking into adulthood.
None of that matters in that split second.
And then they leap with faith
and land with control
back in the real world, they are faced
with all of life’s petty challenges,
they stand tall with a confidence
I can only aspire to.
At the end of the day,
an old man walked towards my lens and stood in front of me,
with not an ounce of self-consciousness, he said
“I haven’t broken one yet“, pointing at my camera,
with a finger as gnarly as the branch of an old apple tree,
and then he leapt across his 70 years and told me a story
of how he had been daring,