David Firman, “Walking Coast to Coast in Andalucía”

David Firman
Winnipeg, Manitoba

Walking Coast to Coast in Andalucía
bookboard, bookcloth, aluminum posts, japanese inkjet paper, pigment inks
11.8 x 8.6 x 1″

Artist Statement

Walking Coast to Coast in Andalucía (2019) is a unique, handmade book using photos, prose and cartography—all printed on translucent pages—to tell a story of endless steps taken minute by minute, day after day on a 22-day walk across the Penibetic Mountain range in Southern Spain. It is the story of small things: of olive trees, rocky terrain, bathtub water troughs, good food, heat and blue sky; of ordinary moments converging into an extraordinary tale.

Over the past fifteen years, my photo-based practice has focussed on the art of a good walk: the chain of sensorial observations made at a slow, rhythmic pace; the progression of small details and large vistas; the found artifacts of human occupation, whether banal or odd or moving; the terrain, the smells; a sense of place evolving over time.

Walks can be thought of as performance, the art of perambulation over a period of time following a loosely scripted program of maps and trails. The drama unfolds over time and distance, informed by unknown places and unexpected observations that come and go around every curve. The walker constructs a personal geo-spatial atlas of the journey, layered with sights, sounds and smells.

Books, I find, are an effective way to present these walk-performances, a way to capture and develop the serial storyline of each walk through photographs, map graphics and prose. Since 2014, I have produced eight small self-published, print-on-demand books—my Ways To Walk series—documenting short, local walks. More books in the series are planned.

Concurrent with the Ways To Walk project, my wife and I have undertaken several long- distance walks in France, Spain, Britain, Ireland, Czech Republic and Japan, each ranging from 400 to 1,000-plus kilometres in length. These explore the nature of religious and secular pilgrimages and how a rhythmic chant-like pacing over an extended period can refocus one’s inward and outward thoughts on minute observations in unfamiliar settings.

Walking Coast to Coast in Andalucía explores the transitional nature of our 2019 long walk, the slow flow of footsteps from one space to another over 435 kilometres and 22 days. Its seventy translucent pages of photographs, words and vague maps respond to the landscape as it unfurls along the path, seeping through from one page to the next, overlapping in complex ways.

The pages are printed on a thin Awagami 30 gsm kozo inkjet paper, hand-altered with torn fore-edges and variously crumpled and punched in response to the day’s walk. In this sense, the paper itself becomes part of the narrative. Bound in a hard case with blue fabric bookcloth —the deep blue Andalucían sky—the front cover and spine open to lie flat, revealing the book pages, bound along the left edge with aluminum screw posts and a bookcloth-covered binding strip. The heaviness of the binding, similar to a ship’s logbook, contrasts with the lightness of the book’s pages. A feathery journey wrapped in a sturdy document.