Starting in the mid-80s, my job took me to Europe several times a year and I often spent my weekends doing street photography. One rainy Sunday, I wandered into the train station in Zug, Switzerland. I wasn’t properly equipped for the low light levels, but I spent the afternoon there, bracing my folding Plaubel Makina against posts during the required quarter- to fifteenth-second exposures. When I developed the film, I found two images I liked. I was especially smitten with the motion blur in many of the images.
I decided to pursue this new photographic thread. Armed with more appropriate equipment, I sought out European train stations with classic nineteenth-century architectures. I found the combination of the people and the edifices exciting. I experimented with different amounts of motion blur and different relationships between the indistinct and sharp portions of the images. I developed a routine: I’d put a wide-angle lens on a medium-format camera, find a good place to set up my tripod, affix a cable release, and select a shutter speed for what I hoped would be the right amount of blur. Then I’d wait for the people to come by. Some would be nervous about the camera, and would rush by or give me a wide berth; I would accommodate them by not releasing the shutter. The longer I stood there, the more I seemed to become an uninteresting fixture ignored by almost everyone.
After several years of train stations, I realized that photographs with similar sensibility could be made in other places, and branched out to bus and tube stations, monuments, and other grand public spaces. Some places didn’t permit tripods, so in the later years of this project, I experimented with fast film in a 35mm camera, bracing it against walls and pillars as I did at first. Motion blur is important in these images, and the results are not easy to predict; that became part of what I loved about making these images. I’d wonder what I was capturing on the film while I was making the exposures, and going over the contact sheets after the trip was like opening presents. I printed a small fraction of the frames I exposed, but even the throw-aways were interesting, and I learned as much from the bad images as the good ones.