Walk This Way

No path? No problem. The desire lines in this Dutch photo essay prove that people are quite comfortable going their own way.

Ganzenhoef1 path in Geldershoofd, Amsterdam

Shortcuts are nothing new, but most folks are too busy absentmindedly following—or initiating—them to stop and truly notice the way these trails regrid the pedestrian landscape. Dutch photographer Jan-Dirk van der Burg spent four years capturing the evocatively dubbed olifantenpaadjes—literally “elephant paths”—all over the Netherlands. The results provide a droll glimpse into a most basic animal instinct: to conveniently close the gap from here to there.

Kantoorpaadje path in Pietersbergweg, Amsterdam
"Kantoorpaadje," Pietersbergweg, Amsterdam. Distance saved: 10 feet.
Olifant Achmea path in Molenwerf, Amsterdam
"Zoetermeer3," Bredewater, Amsterdam. Distance saved: 18 feet.
Elephant path in Amsterdam
"Olifant Achmea," Molenwerf, Amsterdam. Distance saved: 100 feet.

Originally published

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