Familiar Walks in the Neighborhood

Plus Photo-eye's Best of, Photography & Memory, the Blue Zone Lifestyle, Lifeblogging and more!

There are novelty walks and there are familiar walks. Lately I’ve been seeking out more of the novelty walks, researching new trails, making plans and then jumping on the train. There’s nothing like visiting a place for the first time and absorbing all the new scenes. The mix of data overload and being further away from home can be added stressors. Unfamiliar locations induce a strange mix of feelings and impressions.

After making a novelty walk in New Jersey yesterday, I decided I need a familiar walk today, so I stuck my local Queens neighborhoods. As I was thinking about this today, I focused on how a familiar walk allows my mind to wander in ways that doesn’t happen on the novelty walks. In most cases, I feel more creative and productive. My focus is more on thinking than creating and mediating the experience. I know the neighborhoods well enough that I can take any route and know exactly where I’m going. It’s perfect for a nice long, meditative walk. No photographs required. Only video! (More on that in later writing.)

But I do think about just walking and not recording anything. It feels like an alien concept, and that bothers me. I’ve shared a lot of articles about the attention economy and the negative effects of screen time and social media. One of the reasons I’m obsessed with walking and hiking is because it keeps me away from screens. But not really! Because I’m still mediating the experience through a camera. Basically, I have a complicated relationship with photography right now which is partly why I’m writing this newsletter and embarking on a new creative journey. I don’t know much but I know that if you aren’t consistently asking questions and interrogating your process, you probably won’t evolve as an artist (which isn’t necessarily a productive goal, there’s always the ‘just be’ approach).

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“This book matches a conceptual aerial photography project with a unique and innovative book design. Photographer Gerco de Ruijter’s work focuses on the thousands of parallel roads that define much of the midwestern and western US landscape. When seen from above these roads inevitably contain junctions or slight bends. These “corrections,” indicate where the Jeffersonian theory of an ordered and egalitarian landscape grid meets the reality of the earth’s curved surface.” - Mark Klett

Photo-eye is out with their list of the best books of the year. This one caught my attention.

How Making Photographs Impacts Memory

“However, there was one way in which taking pictures did not erode people’s memories in Henkel’s experiments. In the art museum study, “when participants zoomed in to photograph a specific part of the object, their subsequent recognition and detail memory were not impaired, and, in fact, memory for features that were not zoomed in on was just as strong as memory for features that were zoomed in on,” the professor wrote. “This suggests that the additional attention and cognitive processes engaged by this focused activity can eliminate the photo-taking-impairment effect.” [Ideas.Ted]

The article is focused on the average photo taker and not ‘serious’ photographers. But the above rings true for all. Serious photographers are always “zoomed in” so to speak. or as Sarah Jacobs puts it…

The Blue Zone Lifestyle

“A healthy diet was just one part of a mutually supportive web of factors promoting longevity in the blue zones. People also benefited from having a circle of lifelong friends, a clear sense of purpose, an environment that nudged them into constant movement, and daily rituals that mitigated stress. Their communities were built for people, not cars. Every visit to a friend's house, the market or workplace occasioned a walk.” [CNN]

I think it was a few years ago when I first read about the blue zones and their secrets to living long lives. This is the first time I’ve read about it being tied into walkable communities which naturally makes sense.

Lifelogging and Time Dilation

“As he’d hoped, he also appreciates having a more complete record of his life, compared to his vaguer recollections of the past. “I can go through and really look at the details of every day and almost every hour of every day over those 10 years,” he says. “Whereas if I look from 30 to 40, I know lots of things happened, but I can't go [into] the granular details about what was happening.”

The sheer density of that record creates the impression of time dilation, he says – as if he has lived a longer life. “I have the impression that these 10 years from 40 to 50 have gone slower,” he says.” [BBC]

I’m fascinated by lifelogging but can’t go to the extremes this guy is taking it. It’s going to be really interesting and probably terrifying how much we’re going to learn about ourselves and habits through data. I’m obsessed with step counts and anecdotally know that if I make it 15,000 steps in a day, I’ll sleep better.

Further Reading

“Unplugging made the journey a lot deeper, because I went to places in my mind that I didn’t know were there. I tapped into my superpowers, as I call them. The trip is supposed to be hard, so you’re just riding these up-and-down waves. - Mike Posner


I’m a photographer, editor and creative collaborator working in New York City. You can email me at info@bryanformhals.com or follow me on Instagram & Twitter

This newsletter is a weekly digest mixing updates on my current projects with the articles and media that catch my attention during the week. Topics I’m focusing on these days include walking, urbanism, New York city history, news about photography and photobooks, the attention economy and spirituality.

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