I am fascinated by the physical and mental processes of long journeys on foot.
Physically, complete mobile self-sufficiency changes one’s view of what is essential in life when everything has to be carried. Lightweight cutlery, for example, assumes an unusual beauty for its marriage of function and efficient design. As does the strength and flexibility of a simple boot lace which inevitably catches one’s glance hour after hour.
Mentally, the solitude and the unrelentingness of a two-week walk can be daunting and at times dull. By paying attention to each new scene, sound, smell, vision – and here photography enhances the experience immensely – the enforced meditation of the second-by-second stepping literally changes one’s mind; makes one less a visitor and more a co-exister with all things on the path, around it and above it.
As at the moment I endure an enforced break from making new prints and negatives, I have been drawn back to this journey I made in 1991 when I walked Offa’s Dyke on the border of England and Wales, from South to North. Along the way I photographed whatever appeared to sum up the experience of the moment, later compiling the images in a notebook. I chose not to write anything in the book except the name of the location and the distance travelled from the start of the route.
Foot journeys never seem to leave one’s consciousness. Perhaps the drum-beat regularity of the rhythm they demand etches itself on the mind in ways which the inherent rapid variety of other ways of travelling cannot. This, combined with revisiting my photographic notebook made at the time, is making me consider a 20-year anniversary re-walking of the route with a light cardboard pinhole camera and a couple of films. I have an intuition that it will be a satisfying and illuminating thing to undertake.
Here are the first three photographs taken in the extreme South of the path.