The figure in motion has long been an inspiration for me. People walking on the street are fleeting, momentary visions. One moment the sidewalk can be crowded with pedestrians, the next, empty. The memory of the passers-by is haunting.
I began to study people in sketches when I first arrived in New York City in 1968. I carried a sketch book on the subway, in coffee shops, wherever there were people. Observed from a safe distance, my pen and ink drawings filled volumes of sketchbooks.
When I started using a camera to capture motion, my drawings became paintings. I loved how the shutter could stop action. A leg, outstretched to take a step, the body, shifting to transfer weight to the other leg. This was exciting!
I remembered seeing the photographic motion studies by Eadweard Muybridge, who broke the stride into a sequence of parts, using multiple cameras timed to trigger one after another. I began standing with my camera on the street, shooting dozens of photos in quick succession as people moved through my viewfinder.
These photos became the basis of long freize-like paintings I called “Passacaglia”, that refers to a renaissance musical form, believed to have originated with street musicians. The name means “Passing along the Street”.
For over four decades I have been developing this series. It has taken many turns and grown wider in scope. My Passacaglia series includes ballet dancers and marchers in a parade. This year I photographed people crossing a bridge in Florence and near the Coliseum in Rome. It all began with the humble sketchbook.
I have realized that my observations are always from a distance, choosing to remain anonymous to the people as I study them. I now understand that this is my true nature, to be an observer.