At some stage in a photographers life they feel the need to go on a journey of photographic exploration. This maybe simply because the photographer needs new inspiration or has simply run out of ideas. In other instances the photographer is retracing the steps of those who have gone before, following relatives that have escaped, famous historical figures or even fictional mass murderers. These journeys, be they by road, rail or on foot force the photographer into experiences that they would never normally encounter. Even journeys that are quiet and contemplative can be highly productive as Paul Gaffney‘s We Make the Path by Walking proves.
Paul Gaffney was a man with a lot of spare time and a very sturdy pair of walking boots¹. Over the course of several years he go into mediation and found the act of walking was one of his favourite ways of relaxing. Rather than just walk blindly across the country he began to explore the roads and overpasses that led from the motorways. The premise was very simple, find out where these little used lanes would take him and record the journey. Soon walking across the UK was not enough and so he decided to follow the Camino de Santiago ‘the way of St James’, a popular pilgrimage route that stretches through France and across northern Spain.
Soon Gaffney had covered over 3500 kilometres, taking photographs as he went. The calmness of his journeys is clearly seen in the resulting images and self published book. I initially didn’t ‘get’ the images. They were just boring landscapes to me but I must admit that having heard Paul talk about his work I have become a convert. The importance of being able to speak clearly and enthusiastically about my work has been highlighted by this presentation. Seeing the images at the proper size on display in ffotogallery helped further cement my love of the work and It thought it was clever the way that the display forced the viewers to move around the space – making their own journey.
The soft and unassuming tonal ranges, the quietness and the small details in each scene all combine to create a sense of serenity and calm. The annoying thing for me is that I came on board too late and can’t afford a copy of the book until a second edition (or wooden-boxed collectors edition) is published.
All images copyright Paul Gaffney.
¹He’s now a very busy man who has been working very hard on promoting his work and giving talks about the book!