Life’s But A Walking Shadow

Life's But A Walking Shadow

Gary Hill

Man with head bowed walks past a lamp post with the appearance of a bowed head

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more.

These words Shakespeare gave to MacBeth. I've often thought that if Shakespeare lived today he might well have been a street or documentary photographer. Or perhaps a director of angst-laden films. His characters often appear torn between an attempt to portray confidence in the notion that their lives have some importance in some conjured grand scheme of things, yet are haunted by a pervasive existential doubt that, ultimately, the universe probably cares nought.

Shadows, walking or still are, as any photographer knows, ephemeral, being wholly dependent on the temporary position and strength of an external light source. Any moment might well be their last. Similarly, this moment, any moment, might well be our last too. Heard no more.

I've always been a people watcher. On several occasions, across 25 years or so, I've stayed in the small Moroccan coastal town of Essaouira. It's one of my favourite places for street photography. I'm particularly drawn to a section of road leading down from the medina to the harbour. Both sides have high walls and an equally high wall marks the end of the road. At first it was the textures, the varying colours and the strong morphing shadows, on the walls that attracted me to this place. It was afterward I noticed the life. All day long people walk up and down this road, sometimes several times a day. For some time each day I would sit quietly, propped up by a wall, camera poised. And wonder where they are going? For what reason? Are they, perhaps, outwardly fretting but inwardly strutting, or vice-versa? How many moments do they have left? Inspired by Shakespeare, capturing little snippets of life, shadows and walking shadows.

An elderly man strolls by in front of a bare stone wall
Man walking past bare stone wall casting a shadow that's reminiscent of an angel
Person dressed all in black except for white socks walking past a bare stone wall with the shadow of a lamp post
Dark hooded figure walks past a bare stone wall with the shadow of a lamp post
Back view of a dark hooded figure walking in front of a bare stone wall
Back view of a dark hooded figure with hands clasped behind back, casting a long shadow

'Life's A Walking Shadow'. Original images and written content © Gary Hill 2016. All rights reserved. Not in public domain. If you wish to use my work for anything other than legal 'fair use' (i.e., non-profit educational or scholarly research or critique purposes) please contact me for permission first.