Paul Gaffney's We Make the Path by Walking follows the fringes of man's influence on the environment. It follows that proverbial path less taken, but instead of moralising, makes the man-altered world a pleasure to behold. New Topographics, this is not (at least not until the final pages), but it is a sort of curious, lyrical journey with the environment.
The journey follows, strangely enough, the path that is made by walking. Gaffney trekked some 3,500km across the European continent to bring us these images - an achievement in itself. The images he brings back are not purely of the natural environment, nor are they man-made. Each photograph features traces of both, beginning with a dominant natural environment that finally gives way to (or at least shares) the man-altered one.
Like using an electric shaver on a cocker spaniel, the path that has been carved out first by history and then followed by Gaffney is one that has not grown back the same way. This is probably what I like the most about the book - how the images achieve a natural rawness without resorting to a look of isolation and wilderness. In this images, I feel that the sounds of the man-dominated world were never out of earshot.
I went on a walk once. I saw lots of trees, too. They are charming. Couldn't hear lots of cars, but when I did hear one, it sure was loud. I always loved seeing the headlights of cars driving in the state forest at night during cadet camp. The endless shadows played around my senses. But I digress.
I'm sure there are other tracts of art-speak that can be applied to this book, but it's really just a simple, beautiful book that contains lovely lyrical images. And I've run out of adjectives.
It is presented in a printed slipcase and once removed from said case, is lovely and raw. Its binding is rough and visible (of the Smyth type I believe) but more than very fitting for this book. It can even lie flat.
Unfortunately for you, unless you've already a copy, the first self-published print run of 1,000 has sold out. There is apparently a "special edition" to be published soon. The book has been featured on many "top photobook" lists (because without lists, the world ceases to function) and has been nominated for awards and such.
All in all, it's a great little book that perfectly fulfils all the hopes and dreams artists hold for a self-published title. There's probably more to say about the book in art critique mode, but when my reaction to it seems so innate, there's little reason to go on about it.
We Make the Path by Walking
Paperback with cardboard slipcase