Drifting and striding, in Hollywood and elsewhere, with Geoff Nicholson - author of The Lost Art of Walking, and Walking in Ruins withcholson, author of Toff Nidrifting and stomping withcholson, author of The Lost Art of Walking, considers the narrower and wider shores of obsessive pedestrianism.
Showing posts with label Picasso. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Picasso. Show all posts

Thursday, September 24, 2015


You remember me going on, some while back, about “desire lines” - also sometimes known as “bootleg trails” (a term which I like a lot) – informal paths created by walkers as an alternative and sometimes as a downright challenge to the formal paths by and planners and landscapers.  Well, once you start looking, these things are everywhere of course, and as I roam around I see them all the time.  This one here is in Salt Lake City (and actually leads to a labyrinth):

And I found this rather less developed one in Ely, Nevada (birthplace of Patricia Nixon) which runs around the side of the public library and didn’t seem actually to be very useful but somebody must think it is otherwise it wouldn’t be there (you can’t argue with desire):

 As a matter of fact Ely also has a labyrinth.  There may be something going on here, right?

Meanwhile at CalArts where I am a very occasional adjunct professor (yep, I have been known to get emails addressed to Professor Nicholson which really is unutterably cool), the landscapers (or maybe just gardeners) have been working to destroy, or at least erase, a desire line I wrote about in that previous blog post.
First there was, and is, a formal paved, in fact cobbled, path leading from the dorms and the lower parking lot up to the main buildings, and as can you see there was then a desire line somewhat further along the bank.

Well, the cobbled path is still there of course but the desire line has gone.  That area has been mulched.  I’m not sure why.  It was just a bit of grass that didn’t seem in need of mulching – but maybe it was too hard to cut the grass there. 

Anyway, it’s clearly quite hard to walk on mulch but I think the irresistible forces of desire are already at work and, to my eyes anyway, a new desire line appears to be forming.  We shall see.  And I’ll keep you informed.   
That other post is here:

Friday, May 23, 2014


Here’s something I didn’t know about walking.  I discovered it in this month’s Vanity Fair, in an article about the photographer Robert Capa, who covered the D-Day landings and created some of the greatest war photographs ever seen, like this one, soldiers from the 16th Regiment of the 1st Infantry Division walking, or I suppose wading, on Omaha Beach on June 6th 1944.

In the last days of May 1944 Capa was in London, on call for Life magazine, waiting for the summons to go and meet up with the U.S. army.  The call came and he went down to Weymouth, in Dorset where he was given some necessities; an envelope of francs, a pack of condoms, and a French phrase book that offered suggestions on how he might converse with French girls.  One was, “Bonjour mademoiselle, voulez-vous fair une promenade avec moi?” 

Capa was killed on May 25th 1954, having accepted another Life commission, this time to accompany a French regiment fighting in Indochina.  The were under fire, in particularly dangerous territory, and following his own advice “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough,” he got out of the Jeep he was travelling in and started walking up the road to improve his chances of getting a good picture.  He stepped on a landmine, his left leg was destroyed and he was wounded in his chest.  He was dead before they managed to get him to a field hospital.

Capa seems to have been one of those men who felt more alive taking photographs in war rather than peace, but he certainly took at least one great and joyous peacetime walking picture; this one of Picasso and Francoise Gilot (and some other guy) on the beach at Golfe-Juan, August 1948.