I am delighted to have come across the wonderful book, The Walk by August Eriksson and published by Kerber Verlag. Eriksson, based in Sweden, captures his movement along a series of ancient pilgrimage routes in Japan. Sixty-six images follow one after another, all with the same strict composition: the path, seen from the eye level of the walker, disappears into the vanishing point of the image.
Of the Photobooks I purchased this year, these are my 10 favourite.
- Highway Kind - Justine Kurland
- ZZYZX – Gregory Halpern
- Intimate Distance - Todd Hido
- Jazorina - Freya Najade
- DTLFTSOTE - Mark Power
- Cuba La Lucha - Carl De Keyzer
- In Flagrante Two - Chris Killip
- Tulip - Celine Marchbank
- Badly Repaired Cars - Ronni Campana
- Provisional Arrangement - Martin Kollar
I'm delighted to discover the beautiful new book by Philipp Ebeling called London Ends.
"Leaving behind the landmarks of the centre, London Ends takes the viewer on a journey to the places where the city ceases to be a city and becomes a series of amalgamated villages. Sleepy and yet full of life, the places where London ‘ends’ are the places that Ebeling has been drawn to with his camera for many years, culminating in a 250km circular walk to join them all together."
London Ends is published by Fishbar and costs £37. Images from the book are on display at Fishbar Gallery, 176 Dalston Lane, E8 1NG.
Image © Philipp Ebeling
Night Walk, the new book from photographer Ken Schles, takes a fascinating look at the nightlife of New york. Grainy and confrontational, the work paints a harsh picture of New york and the suffering of its inhabitants.
The book itself seems to follow a loose walking narrative. We are taken through the book by the inclusion of occasional images featuring people passing through the streets on their way to some unknown location. Further in, we are taken around seedy apartment blocks and clubs where we see a version of 80's New york life that has rarely been seen before. Curiously, we occasionally see images of individuals heading towards fireworks in the sky. This gives the impression that although the individuals seem to be enjoying their anarchic lives, they also long for an escape.
We are never told the intention of the work and are thankfully left to make up are own version of the story. In the final images of the book we are shown the smiling faces of women as the cityscape turns to day. The night has come to an end and they look happy to begin a new day, ending the book with a sense of hope. I have waited a long time for this book to be released and it was well worth the wait. I also highly recommended checking out the brilliant Invisible City by Ken Schles, likewise published by Steidl.
The MAP6 publication The Moscow Project was on show at the Photo Publishers’ Market this weekend. It was also great to see so many other fabulous publications on display.
The Photo Publishers’ Market was held at The Phoenix and was organised by Brighton Photo Fringe, Photoworks, Brighton Photo Biennial and Miniclick.
Sat/Sun October 18th and 19th
The Phoenix Brighton
10–14 Waterloo Place Brighton BN2 9NB
The Photo Publishers’ Market is organised by Brighton Photo Fringe, Photoworks, Brighton Photo Biennial and Miniclick.
I was delighted to come across the series Olifantenpaadjes, otherwise known as Desire Lines, by Dutch photographer Jan-Dirk Van Der Burg. A desire line is a path created by a continuous passing of people over a singular piece of land. The path usually represents the shortest or most easily navigated route between two places and is often a shortcut between other constructed routes. The image of a path created by people walking or cycling is seen by some as a small act of defiance against those paths mapped out for us by society.
The book Olifantenpaadjes, first published in 2011, offers 77 examples of these unofficial pathways. Pedestrians can be seen traversing pavements whilst evading traffic-safety barriers and avoiding designated pedestrian areas. Jan-Dirk Van Der Burg explores this curious phenomenon with his remarkably well crafted medium format photographs. For me his images have a similar european feel to them as the work of Joachim Brohmn, Hans van der Meer or the early work of Andreas Gursky. This wonderful collection of photographs not only demonstrates our defiant desire to not keep off the grass, but also humorously depicts how inherently lazy and impatient we can be when faced with the simple task of getting to where we want to go. Something I'm sure we can all relate to.
You can see more of Jan-Dirk van der Burg's work on his website here.
All Images © JanDirk
Back in December, I did a post about David Johnston's book Long Walks. Since then I've had the chance to hear more from David and took the opportunity to ask him about walking, his work and his book. David's early life on a farm first aroused his passion for the countryside. This uninterrupted country life carried on through a series of jobs before he turned his hand to maintenance in a home for the mentally disabled. But walking the countryside, camera in hand, was still his greatest pleasure and he has continued to do so throughout his life. David's photographs first appeared in local newspapers and magazines in 1987, and Long Walks was published by Photoworks in 1999, accompanied by a major exhibition. Later, he went on to publish his book West Sussex Barns & Farms Buildings in 2002 with Dovecote Press.
How important is walking to your photographic practice?
DJ - For me, walking and photography go hand in hand, they are bound together, one working with the other; and for that reason, I find the two of equal importance. For I may be out there, wandering the country lanes at any time of the year, and unexpectedly spot something rare and exciting. It's then captured instantly on film. No matter how many times I have gone over the same ground, there is always something new to see, and it was this compulsion, this need to always walk with my camera, which gave me every single opportunity to photograph the great variety of country images that I have in my archive of around 10,000 colour slides of the Sussex countryside, all built up over the past thirty years.
How did you go about making Long Walks; what was your working process?
DJ - The making of Long Walks began from the moment I started recording my country rambles on film, and in my diary, back in 1987. I had then some vague hope that one day my detailed observations may be of interest to others. It was at this early stage, that I found myself instinctively seeking out the hidden nooks within our rural county, for there was always so much to see, so much to inspire a curious mind. On arriving home, I would jot down these observations, each page being filled with the beauty of the landscapes and occasionally adding those happy pauses for hot tea from the flask, or fish 'n' chips in the car, while watching the sunset! Yet, beside these random personal snippets, it was a serious study of our living countryside, photographed, and scribbled down exactly as I saw it – with a hope of stirring the imagination, and urging others to go out to explore the beauty of the land we live in. It was always a leisurely project. One which I knew in the back of my mind would be a long term venture, lasting perhaps thirty years, if not more.
What are your current thoughts about Long Walks, how do you feel about the work now?
DJ - My thoughts about Long Walks, have always been the same, tinged with a fragment of disappointment. For, to my way of thinking, there was no real point in having my appallingly untidy handwriting printed within the book, the very same notes would have been better illustrated with a good italic typeset. But having said that, Long Walks was, of course, an important medium for proclaiming my photographic work of some recognisable importance to the county of West Sussex. The book certainly broadcast the joy of walking and photographing the rural life and natural world within our county, and for that, I will always be thankful.
What are you working on at the present moment, do you have any more long walks planned for the future?
DJ - This year I have been working on, and coincidently just finished compiling into one complete volume, my Long Walks Diaries – all of which cover the years between 1987 and 2003. The manuscript has 130 pages, made up of around 48,000 words. It is in fact a documentary of the changing countryside in Sussex, built up over a quarter of a century. Within its pages are hundreds of nature notes along with the recording of many interesting old farm buildings: shepherd huts, redundant farm machinery, and any curious artefacts we came across. Also contained within are the many country people we met and spoke to, from Lords and Ladies to Sussex farmers, country rustics and odd eccentrics. Then there are events, the great storm of 1987 and the change it made to the countryside, also the floods, the snow storms and the weather we noted each day. And there are the fourteen separate village photo-shoots for the Millennium that I undertook. These things and much more are all within the pages of the Diary and I am now looking for a publisher, who would find this new book of interest to publish.
Every now and then, I come across a book that makes me think: This is right up my street (no pun intended). Walking and Mapping: Artists as Cartographers (2013) by Karen O'Rourke is such a book. Karen O'Rourke is an artist and writer whose theoretical research on contemporary art has led to a number of articles and publications, this is one of them. Over its 328 pages, the book is a deeply engaging look at the modern state of walking, art and cartography. The book pays particular attention to experimental mapping techniques, online databases and a vast array of other modern technological devices made to map our way through the world. O'Rourke notes how "mapping is our way to locate ourselves in the world", and throughout the course of the book, she manages to create her own chronological map of walking art and cartography. The first part of the book begins with the origins of contemporary walking practices in the 20th century by looking at the likes of Guy Debord, and how practitioners of psychogeography utilised cartography. The later parts of the book then take us into unfamiliar territory, examining the relationship between walking and modern technological mapping techniques. By presenting us with numerous artists’ experiments, some of which the writer actually participates in, we are shown how this practice continues to evolve today. These experiments involve mental mapping, surveillance mapping, emotional GPS and datascapes. Although confusing at first, these unusual terms are well explained and begin to make sense throughout the course of the book. Admittedly, at times I got lost and found myself re-reading chapters until I managed to grasp some of the more complex methods.
What I find really valuable with this book is the way it collates many of these ephemeral works into one volume. Walking art often takes the form of a performance piece, a fleeting experiment played out to express or communicate a point of view. Often with time, some of these works become forgotten or even lost. Here, however, O'Rourke manages to bring them together and give them a new life by re-contextualising them into her own history of events. Thankfully, many of the artists had used photography and moving image to document these performances, enabling us to get a visual sense of each piece. For me, it is fascinating to discover so many unfamiliar works and to see how they have each developed and built upon those that came previously.
The book comes fully illustrated in black and white with many film stills, photographs, diagrams and maps that assist the reader with understanding each project. The book also collates a large and varied set of practices that expose the ever growing interest in this area. Until now, I have never come across a book that charts walking and cartography so thoroughly, making it really quite unique. I can't help but feel that it's bound to become a valuable academic text used by those that share an interest in walking or cartography. Fascinating, erudite and remarkably well researched, Walking and Mapping is for me, an essential addition to the increasingly prominent study of artistic walking.
I recently discovered the work of Irish photographer Paul Gaffney. You can see his wonderful project "We make the path by walking" on his website here. There you can also purchase his book that was featured in the British Journal of Photography's list, The Best Photobooks of 2013.
Images © Paul Gaffney
Long Walks is the third in the Country Life series of books commissioned by Photoworks. David Johnston has for many years made walks throughout the West Sussex countryside, and in particular the rural area around Petworth. His work is a personal account of these walks. Interestingly, he is a self-taught photographer who makes work around his day job as a painter, decorator and maintenance man in a home for people with mental disabilities.
Long Walks is a beautiful little publication that sits in the palm of your hand, not unlike a diary. It has 48 pages and 11 photographs that are accompanied by extracts from Johnston's own diary as well as a botanical glossary. Johnston's colour photographs seem to capture the English countryside as we often try to imagine it. They have no traces of the modern world and are in essence quite timeless. Each photograph is similar in appearance with only minor differences between them. They depict the most simplest of moments when walking in the countryside, a field, a tree or a hill. However, we get the feeling that this work is not just about the photographs in themselves but more about the entire process of escaping into the countryside with your camera and using photography to examine your surroundings.
Johnston's texts re-create a sense of walking through picturesque England. He describes the weather and how it affects his walking experience, a typically English habit. He also writes of his fleeting encounters with wildlife, deer, birds and rabbits. Curiously, he writes about capturing wildlife with his camera, but we never see any of these encounters in his photographs. Perhaps these encounters are only meant to be experienced by those whom venture out on foot for themselves. As well as writing about his surroundings, he also recounts stopping for fish and chips and buying a can of coke. For me, these seemingly minor occurrences manage to conjure up my own childhood memories of escaping the city on walks with my family.
Johnston describes his sense of well-being when walking in the countryside. These thoughts are interspersed with those of his other more domesticated life, where he sits around at home or is at work. The enjoyment that he clearly gets from exploring the landscape on foot really comes across throughout the book and it is a joy to look at, read and return to. Perhaps at its core, Long Walks is a book meant to inspire us to venture out on foot for ourselves, but for those that choose not too, it makes for a nice little alternative.
In 2000, Joel Sternfeld began photographing the High Line, an abandoned elevated railway that runs for 13 miles throughout downtown Manhattan. Walking the path of the train line, he photographed the location throughout all of the seasons over the course of a year. In Sternfeld's photographs we can witness the overgrown rail line against the spectacular backdrop of the New York skyline surrounded by billboards, warehouses and empty office spaces. The rail line was previously an industrial space only used for freight trains, meaning there are no stations or public access. Due to this lack of public access on the line, Sternfeld's photographic walk feels like he is exposing us to a forbidden secret garden hidden in the city. The fact that Sternfeld is walking the line is like the act of reclaiming it on foot, making a once industrial space human again, to be walked upon and not only transited by train.
The photographs seem to pay homage to the beauty and persistence of nature as it overcomes the man made structure of the rail line. In 2009, the High Line was converted into a park so the photographs made before this transformation enable us to see the High Line as it will never be seen again, making the work a valuable historic record. Looking at the photographs, we may also get an impression of what Manhattan might look like if it was to be abandoned by its inhabitants.
The new Steidl edition of the book from 2012 follows on from several previous ones now out of print. It is much smaller, which for me makes it more enjoyable to read than the previous larger ones. Presumably due to its shrinkage in size, it also makes the book much more affordable. On the opening and rear inlay is a nicely designed map of the train line which immediately creates a sense of the location before we are introduced to the photographs. The book features a tight edit of 24 photographs and two accompanying essays. It is beautifully made and the quality of the print really enables us to appreciate just how rich in detail each of the large format photographs are. Although you may think that 24 photographs isn't much value for money in a photographic book, I find myself repeatedly going back over each of the photographs, trying to absorb all of the details within them. In this sense, less is definitely more. The new edition has a number of new features such as the particularly enjoyable "High Line Timeline" at the back of the book. It charts the history of the rail line from before its creation in 1929 up until its conversion into a public park in the present day. This offers a much broader sense of place reminding the reader of the locations original industrial purpose in contrast to the leisure facility it has become today.
One of the most effective aspects of the book for me is the way it makes me want to visit the site and walk the High Line for myself. The photographs really create the sense of a journey into a forgotten and feral landscape. Looking down the rail tracks makes me want to embark on my own classic American rail adventure, walking along the tracks into the unknown. Whilst I won't be doing that for the foreseeable future, at least I have my copy of Walking the High line to help me imagine what that adventure would be like.
Recently, I came across a wonderful little publication called 2ha. Edited by Michael Hayes, 2ha is an independent magazine interested in the overlooked aspects of the Irish suburbs. Each of the themed issues, published every two months, look at the exploration of the suburbs in a different way such as mapping, photography and public space.
Featured here is issue one, #01 A Stranger in a Strange Land. It explores the potential of mapping and understanding our suburban environment.
Here is some text taken from the publication, highlighting the issue's underlying theme:
We propose that the first step in developing an understanding of the suburban condition and imagining its possible future requires a questioning of what we already know or what we assume to know. A fresh perspective is sometimes necessary. There is a value in making the familiar somewhat unfamiliar. For this exercise, we recommend walking.
The publication comes as a beautifully printed, fold out piece. On one side, there is information about the project, as well as a map. The map is a suggested walking route around the Dundrum/Goatstown area of dublin. On the other side are detailed descriptions of each of the stopping points, using text, photography and graphics. By using the map and walking the suggested itinerary, we are guided past everyday places such as a local football pitch, a library and some allotments. All of these vernacular locations are further explained on the map, drawing our attention to places we may ordinarily pass by without much thought. The map is fundamentally an idea for an alternative way of exploring and understanding a suburban area from a new perspective. It also exposes how our surroundings are potentially filled with interesting places that we may usually take for granted.
#01 A Stranger in a Strange Land, demonstrates the growing interest in exploring our urban surroundings on foot. The text underlines how our cities are primarily "car-scapes". Vehicular transportation dictates our perception of our surroundings and subdues our relationship with it. However, by re-engaging with our surroundings on foot we can understand them in a more tactile, physical and profound way.
A nice detail featured on the reverse of the map is the inclusion of two coupons entitling readers to 1 FREE WALK. However, readers must bear in mind that conditions apply and that the coupons are only valid for 12 months after the time of purchase. To take advantage of this unique opportunity we should get walking without haste.
To purchase this or any forthcoming editions, you can visit the 2ha website here.
Starting at 8:00 am on August 5, 1997, they walked non-stop from downtown Manhattan, across the Williamsburg Bridge, to JFK Airport. For 11 hours and 30 minutes, they followed the straightest path possible toward their destination, crossing neighbourhoods, backyards, expressways and cemeteries. As they walked, they studied their surroundings, capturing changes in the landscape as they passed through it. They shot photographs along their route using a 35 mm camera that was shared between them. Prior to the start of the walk they had came to the understanding that either of them could take a photograph of their own choosing, at any time during the walk. When this occurred, the person who shot the photograph handed the camera to the other person, who then shot a second photograph in the exact opposite direction. For the second photograph, no attention was given to the subject, composition or technical adjustments. From the beginning to the end of their walk, they produced 486 photographs.
The work culminated in a book called JFK (now unfortunately out of print) that contains 243 sets of paired photographs in chronological order. The left-hand pages represent the selected shots that were composed and the right-hand pages represent the corresponding shots created by chance.
What is interesting about the walk is that they cleverly chose a simple route, a direct path through the city. This de-complicated the navigational aspects of the walk so they could concentrate more on the task at hand. The work is given a narrative structure, as the walk has both a beginning and an end; once the destination of JFK was reached, the work came to an end. The structured walk created limitations within which they could work, in order to create a more specific photographic response to the locations they walked through.
JFK is ultimately a photographic record of their walk, but for me what makes it highly original is the way that each location was captured as a pair of photographs, made in almost the same time. This enables us to see each location from two different perspectives. The curious thing is that we never know which of the two artists shot each of the photographs.
Iain Sinclair is perhaps the most significant literary figure responsible for the modern reincarnation of psychogeography. He has been working since the mid-1970s on a continuous exploratory project of London that incorporates poetry, novels, documentary film and photography. Sinclair uses walking as a way of re-engaging with the city in a world that he feels we have become disconnected from due to the modern-day media. For Sinclair, the docks, motorways, suburbs and industrial sectors that lie on the extremities of London are of equal interest as the popular touristic monuments that London is renown for.
Sinclair is perhaps most widely known for his book London Orbital (2002), where he circumnavigates London’s M25 on foot. However, it is his collaborations with Marc Atkins that cleverly introduces the photographic image into his work. The book Liquid City (1999), his second collaboration with Atkins, brings together the various walking journeys of the duo, which were undertaken for what Sinclair calls “urban research”. The walks featured in the book take part around the Thames which seems to be used as a visual metaphor to illustrate the city’s transience and the continual flow of people through the urban landscape. The pair takes the reader on a bleak adventure through modern industrial London, on a quest to interrogate and record the changing landscape. We are shown dilapidated graveyards and decapitated statues as a way of demonstrating how history often becomes faded and forgotten if not continually revisited. The darkness of Atkins's black and white photographs bring out the city's dramatic shadows and the hauntedness of the urban space conjured up with Sinclair’s words. The photographs show the way London’s inhabitants are dwarfed by the towering architecture and how the modern construction of the city can create feelings of isolation and alienation.
Once again, Liquid City reveals how the freedom of everyday walking can be applied as a form of artistic exploration. The book shows us the city from the perspective of two pedestrians who through walking, watching and recording manage to tap into the historical heritage of zones that are usually left ignored. The mixture of writing and photographs offer the reader different devices for viewing the city, this gives the book a unique perspective from those that exploit only one or the other. It demonstrates that by using text and photography together, we can find new ways of understanding the inner-city landscapes that shape our everyday existence.
Recently I came across the excellent work of photographer Tim Mitchell. His new self-published book, Up & Down the Pyrenees traces his 150 mile walking journey, where he joined David Lintern for part of his 600 mile sea to sea charity walk.
Keith Arnatt was both a conceptual artist and a photographer. During the early period of his photographic career, he made three series that expressed his fascination with portraiture and the way people behave when confronted by the camera. He began with The Visitors in 1974, then Walking the Dog in 1976 and finally Gardeners in 1978. All three of these earlier series were beautifully shot in black and white before his eventual jump into colour photography. The images featured here are from Walking the Dog.
It is said that Arnatt was originally inspired by August Sanders's photograph of a man with an Alsatian. The dog in Sanders's iconic photograph was caught looking away from the camera, but Arnatt wanted to make an entire series where both the dog walkers and their dogs returned the photographer's gaze. It's interesting to look at the similarities between the dogs and their owners and the interplay between animal and master. They mimic one another in many physical ways but it's the facial expressions that are for me the most interesting and humorous. It's also curious that Arnatt is able to get the dogs to pose for the camera, for those who have tried animal portraiture it's much more difficult than it may appear.
What is different about this series from the others I have featured here, is that these photographs are not just about the photographer being out on a walk, but the fact that his subjects are in fact the walkers.
Summer Nights, Walking is one of my favourite photography books. The photographs within were made along the Colorado front range between 1976 - 1982. The relaxed atmosphere of the pictures gives the impression of a dreamy night time perambulation, where Adams captures his unpopulated surroundings using moonlight and street lamps. When looking at the photographs, I like to imagine the inhabitants of these places to be inside, hiding away from darkness amidst the warm glow of their houses. I also get the impression that Adams enjoyed the solitude of his walks and was inspired by the aloneness of his circumstances.
Adams observes his surroundings with an impressive attention to detail. Through the use of darkness, he transforms everyday objects into something curious, and the ordinary towns he walks through become dreamlike landscapes. The first image in the book depicts a fairground ride shrouded in darkness. It sets a quiet and melancholic tone to the book whilst drawing attention to the way Adams seemingly distances himself away from the action.
The expanded edition from 2009 is superbly printed on crisp matte heavy weight paper with an egg shell tone. The book contains a minimal amount of text opening with only three small paragraphs from Adams, alongside a number of poems from the likes of William Blake. We don't have much in terms of written content to work with but we don't need it. Like all great photography, the images are revelatory enough without additional text. This is exceptional photography contained within an unfussy, beautiful book and the overall simplicity of the book design enables the complexity of the photographs to truly shine.
(Fay Godwin - Forbidden Land)
Fay Godwin remains one of photography's great campaigners for the land, as well as one of Englands great walking photographers. She was president of the ramblers association from 1987 to 1990 which she originally joined in the 1950's. Throughout her life she was continually concerned for the well being of the land. She felt that her home country of England was under constant threat from government policies, industry, the MOD and other powerful interests. The collected photographs shown in her series Our Forbidden Land assert her disdain for the privatisation of land. They depict decaying paths, prohibitive signage against tresspassing, barbed wire fences and various other molestations of the landscape.
Ultimately through her collection of photographs Godwin addresses the modernisation and development of land and the local authorities lack of funding to help preserve its walkways and paths. She also reminds us that the land is rightfully ours to walk on and enjoy, however our public right of way continues to be violated. We as walkers find ourselves in a perpetual battle for the land which will continue to be privatised, fenced off or stolen if we do not take action.