• Mark White

Moments of John Carpenter and Jim Jarmusch in the Streets of Seattle's Wildfire Haze

A pedestrian climbing Lakeview Blvd on Saturday morning, the first full day of the wildfire smoke in Seattle.

I spent more time than I'm willing to admit out in the smoke with my camera. I had also spent a lot of time in the streets in the first weeks of the pandemic shutdown. From mid-March to late April, the Seattle streets looked like a scene in one of John Carpenter's Escape films. Walking through Seattle weekend during the wildfires gave me a disorienting sense of deja vu.

The stadium and skyline from Alaskan Ave S.

I spent several hours each day between Friday September 11 and Monday Sept 14. With the exception of people who are living in the streets in Pioneer Square and various other encampments downtown, I saw very few everyday pedestrians.

Tourists looking out to Elliott Bay from PIke Street Market on Saturday Sept 12.

The scene above, taken from one of the overlooks at the Seattle Pike Place Market, superficially reminds me of one of the most existentially gut-wrenching scenes I've ever experienced in a movie. In Jim Jarmusch's Stranger Than Paradise. John Lurie, Eszter Balint, and Richard Edson take a road trip to the shores of Lake Michigan to take in the view, only to come to a view like this. They stare out into the frozen landscape for several minutes, get back into the car and drive back home. I laughed like I've only laughed a few other times in my life, because of the utter absurdity and bleakness it conveyed. I say "superficially" of course because here we are talking about lung-destroying smoke caused by decades of human idiocy that is creating the bleakness, not an auter's imagination.

Visitors from Arizona who had traveled here to escape the heat.

The Seattle Waterfront was particularly bereft of the normal crowds. These folks were shut out of the Aquarium when it decided not to open due to the unhealthy air quality index. They had flown up from Arizona to escape the heat and celebrate her birthday. And here they are, in full celebratory mood.

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© 2016-2020 MARK WHITE  |  mark@mjwhitephotos.com I 206.409.1247

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