Walking has been an essential part in people’s lives very early on. For centuries walking was necessary for daily chores, wars, but with time, this simple action became more and more researched.
Walking was associated with thinking, this is emphasised in what the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau declared about himself: ‘I can only meditate when I am walking. When I stop, I cease to think; my mind works only with my legs’ ( Solnit, 2001, p.14).
For artists walking became more important in the nineteenth century, but it developed as an important ‘tool’ years after.
Artists, such as Carolee Schneeman and many others started to use walking as the main topic for their research and artwork: for performances ( walking on the street and capturing it), to make a statement , to explore a place or as a mean to find themselves.
One of the well known artists who uses walking as the main subject for his artworks is Richard Long. On my walk I am photographing details or objects which were already there, but I create the composition of the image by deciding how I place them using the camera. With the work entitled ‘Line Made by walking’ (fig. 1) , he purposely decides to intervene in the field he was walking in, by going back and fourth and creating a line in the grass with his footsteps. By doing so he was creating a space of his own, visibly marking his walking journey through the field. By taking a photograph of the strait line and documenting his performance, he created two artworks: one on the site and the other one which can be read as a sculpture as well, in how he created the image.
I remember when I was younger I would imagine myself being a movie star and walking down the road with confidence. Over the years I remarked how my perspectives of walking practices are constantly changing and how my attention is always drawn by something else. When I was living in my hometown, Brasov, located in the central part of Romania, instead of looking around at the surroundings, that were so familiar to me, I was starting to focus more on my thoughts. As soon as I moved to London I was forced to be more aware of what was happening around me. Because I was all on my own, I started discovering the city by walking around and that is how I started finding pleasure in exploring again and noticing certain details. Comparing my hometown with London and the feelings they both gave me, made me question the differences between a space and a place. It changed the way I looked at the architecture of the buildings and it increased my passion to capture their beauty within photographs.
Walking while focusing on my thoughts can influence the way I am viewing the landscapes and the people around me : ‘ Which is to say that the subject of walking is, in some sense, about how we invest universal acts with particular meanings. Like eating or breathing, it can be invested with wildly different cultural meanings, from erotic to the spiritual, from the revolutionary to the artistic’.( Solnit, 2001,p. 1).
Now every time I go back to Brasov, I am more aware of what surrounds me and I am beginning to notice new things that were there all along. For example, when you are familiar with the architecture of a city you do not think to stop and analyse closely the buildings, you only see the constructions, the shapes, the volumes. In order to capture the beauty of neo classicism details you need to look at the bigger picture by looking up to the sky.
As I was walking down the street I started paying attention to the way other people were walking and I was trying to create a portrait of what I thought they were doing based on the way they were dressed and how they moved. Most of them were in a hurry, and they looked like they were caught up in their own thoughts; the ones which seemed like they were enjoying their walk were some tourists and some old ladies. What I have noticed in comparison to London , is that even if people are in a hurry, because the streets are not that crowded, the rhythm of the city has a lower pace. The feeling of familiarity had influenced not only my walk, but the decisions I made along the way. I was paying close attention to my emotions. Because I was familiar with the surroundings, this made me realise how important it is to do not take that for granted; to compare what I already knew with what I am yet to discover. Usually I would bump into someone I know, a friend from high school , or a family friend, but this was not the case. This is a city where I feel like I already know everything and everyone, even if I do not know them personally, I know what they look like, I am familiar with them, especially people that are my age. The notion of familiarity came along with memories from childhood which invaded me.
While I was looking around a lot of memories from my childhood came into my mind, I could have created like a mind book with images of me walking through the same streets at different ages. How I was looking at the city back then and how I am doing it now, and how I was perceived by others then and now, from the position of a woman.
While I was walking I did not want to fallow any trace, even though I knew the streets I wanted to be led by instinct. I was paying attention to my footsteps , I was creating an imaginary map of my own, and nobody could ever see it. It was an intimate act. I was creating my own story through my footsteps, movement of the body and what I was looking at: ‘ Walking, ideally , is a state in which the mind, the body , and the world are aligned, as though they were three characters finally in conversation together, three notes suddenly making a chord’ ( Solnit, 2001, p. 5). As Solnit says walking, not when you are in a hurry, but the real walk, the one where you are perfect aware of it , combines a perfect balance between the mind, the body and the surroundings. All of these happen because you start to pay attention and to look at the whole.