Ian Breakwell: Re-inventing the Diary
The Diaries
KEY WORK:
The Walking Man Diary Installation, ICA 1979
The Walking Man Diary

I live and work on the third floor of a building over-looking Smithfield Market in the City of London. There is a window alongside the worktable at which I make much of my Diary, and I spend a lot of time gazing out of this window at the passing scene on the street below.

In 1975 I became aware that amidst all the hustle and bustle of the market trade, among all the people going purposefully about their business there was one man who I kept seeing repeatedly, a man just as purposeful as those around him but not engaged in any business except that of walking continuously on a circuitous and regular route around the market area. He had white close-cropped hair and a stubbly beard. He was dressed, whatever the weather, in a long heavy overcoat, thick trousers and boots, but he was not a tramp because he carried no baggage. He just kept on walking, like Felix. Sometimes he would suddenly halt, freeze in one position for perhaps half an hour, then start walking again at the same relentless pace, his head bowed, never looking to either side. I began to take photographs of him if he happened to be passing by when I looked out of the window. All the photographs were taken from the same third-floor-window vantage point: the view is the same but time passes.

Two adjoining photographs may be separated by seconds, or minutes, or hours, or days, or weeks, or months. Then one day he was not there any more, I never saw him during the whole of 1977. Now that he had gone I wondered what he had seen out of the corners of his eyes as he walked time after time past the same buildings, the same shop windows, the same people going about their 'normal' business; did he hear their comments as they watched him?

And then on 6th May 1978 I looked out of my window and there he was again, over a year later, dressed exactly the same: walking, walking, walking, just as before but at a slower pace. I began to take photographs of him once more if he happened to be passing when I looked out of the window. After taking hundreds of photographs of The Walking Man, and making a three year visual/verbal Diary about him, I decided that I still did not 'know' him, and when he disappeared again in 1979, perhaps for ever, I made a series of drawings from memory which attempted to recall him.

Ian Breakwell
1979


The Walking Man