I’ve talked before here about the curious pleasure of watching people in Copenhagen wait for the “walk man” to change from red to green.
I find I am not alone in my interest, and now Florian Bohm, a German photographer who lives in New York and Munich, has an exhibition (at Cohen Amador) and book called “Wait for Walk,” which, as the announcement puts it, captures the fleeting moments in which “the nonstop pulse of the city comes to a standstill for a brief moment.” The photographer, it is noted, waits for gaps in the passing traffic to take his shots, “so that the flow of traffic becomes the shutter curtain.”
His city of choice is New York (though Munich, where I found fairly rigorous adherence to signals, presents an interesting point of comparison), where it can of course be a challenge to find pedestrians actually waiting at the light. One of the things I enjoyed particularly about the work is the way the geographical location of the intersection determines the tenor of the pedestrians, whether hurried business types checking their Blackberries, or shorts-clad tourists holding shopping bags and looking at the buildings and people that surround them. They also evoke Walker Evans’ famous subway photographs, which, thanks to his anonymous coat-concealed camera, captured Depression-era New Yorkers in an unguarded public moment. In Bohm’s photographs we see people yawning, pointing, preening, scratching, exhaling, smiling, or just absently staring into space, the city “holding its breath for a moment,” as the text notes. I’ve sometimes thought of traffic signals in this regard as punctuation, providing a moment’s repose in the run-on sentences of daily life.