Follow the desire lines, hopefully not to a recession

Editing Tips, Ira Glass on Narrative, Mapping Old NYC Photos, and Family Pictures USA

There were stronger signs this week that a recession in the United States is on the way. I think it’s here already and that the talking points about the the job market are largely missing a bigger story. The knowledge economy is very fragile. We’ve already seen media companies scaling back this year and cutting staff. Just in the last few weeks both Topic and Pacific Standard closed up. There maybe plenty of digital marketing jobs out there but if a recession hits, I’m guessing marketing budgets will be further slashed. They’re already tight and many marketers already take on enormous workloads, often doing the job of multiple people (which is the case across my industries.)

I moved to New York in 2009 during the Great Recession without a job. I figured I’d give it a try for a few months and if it didn’t work out I’d move back to Minnesota. It was tough but also exciting because I was finally in New York (working on some essays about why exactly I live here and what I like about it.) I was able to pick up some freelancing gigs to stay afloat and eventually landed a job and an apartment.

I’ve been lucky in my 10 years in NYC. I know plenty of creative people that have struggled and continue to struggle with the hustle. It’s tough not to be somewhat concerned about what will happen to the creative industry during another recession. Of course, nobody can predict what will happen but my hunch is that it’s probably going to be a bumpy start to a new decade.

Here’s what caught my attention this week. Please feel free to drop me a line if you have a tip or comment! info@bryanformhals.com


“Go walk a few hundred miles for no obvious reason”

Imagine you are plopped down into a dense foreign city, with no GPS, and instructed to reach a destination that you have never seen. You wander, relying on nothing but serendipity to reach your goal. You crave a map or model, no matter how imperfect, that gives some clarity about where you are, where the destination is and how to get there.

So it is in our modern lives. They are dense with stimuli of intense urgency but dubious importance. We often can’t see our way forward or understand the past. Our days are spent bombarded with experiences and relationships of uncertain value. We crave anything that clarifies the chaos; a model from which we can stand back to understand life as something like a purposeful journey.

This is a nice essay from Arthur Brooks about walking “the ancient Camino de Santiago, or Way of Saint James, across northern Spain.” I have not done a pilgrimage walk yet and I’m not sure I ever will. I’ve contemplated walking across the United States which is relatively common. Musician Mike Posner is doing it right now.

Follow the Desire Lines

From NYC Trails

Desire lines, also known as cow paths, pirate paths, social trails, kemonomichi (beast trails), chemins de l’âne (donkey paths), and Olifantenpad (elephant trails), can be found all over the city and all over the world, scarring pristine lawns and worming through forest undergrowth. They appear anywhere people want to walk, where no formal paths have been provided. (Sometimes they even appear despite the existence of formal paths, out of what seems to be sheer mulishness—or, perhaps, cowishness.) Some view them as evidence of pedestrians’ inability or unwillingness to do what they’re told; in the words of one academic journal, they “record collective disobedience.” - Tracing (and Erasing) New York’s Lines of Desire

Desire lines are fascinating. This article in the New Yorker takes an interesting look at how the city has mapped them in the parks. I try to make photographs whenever I see them. I’ve come across a few photography projects on them over the years but honestly they weren’t so memorable.

I can understand the appeal of trying to pursue a project but I think it requires a few more layers on top of just the discovery and documentation. The user generated aspect on Reddit is interesting. I think it’s fascinating that so many people take photos of them. Related: ‘The Cult of the Fantasy Pedestrian’

OldNYC: Mapping Historical Photos from the NYPL

This site provides an alternative way of browsing the NYPL's incredible Photographic Views of New York City, 1870s-1970s collection. Its goal is to help you discover the history behind the places you see every day.

This is such a cool project! It’s a few years old but new to me. I’m sure it hit my radar when it first arrived but as tends to happen, it didn’t stick. This time I downloaded the app. The photo above is from the block I current live on in Queens.

Two Views on Editing

At the risk of sounding arrogant, no. I don’t show it to anyone until it’s done. And then I’ll show it to a couple friends, but I don’t solicit opinions because I think I know better than anybody what does or doesn’t work. I know the material inside out. In the very beginning, I did ask a few people what they thought, and then it just got too confusing—each person brings a different experience and a different viewpoint to the material. If I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s to trust my own judgment. Which is not to say that it’s right—it’s just mine.

I enjoyed this great interview in the Paris Review with legendary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman. Believe it or not, I’ve yet to see one of his films. They are tough to find, but I need to get on it. There are a lot of opinions on editing, and naturally a film is different than photography, but I’ve always tended to believe that there are some negative effects of trying to get too much editing feedback, especially if you have a strong vision for the body of work. However….

Photographers can be their own worst editor—that is a fact. With this in mind, it can be immensely beneficial to seek feedback from others once you’ve made a preliminary image selection. This can be a friend, a colleague—or for maximum objectivity—a contact who is unfamiliar with your work. Don’t limit this presentation to the tight portfolio edit you plan to show a reviewer. Getting an objective opinion on a wider image selection can yield unexpected insights.

That’s from a comprehensive article about portfolio reviews by my former B&H colleague Jill Waterman. It’s filled with great advice and I agree with her view on getting editing feedback.

Over the years, I’ve always found that photographers love to talk about editing. It can be perplexing, illuminating and incredibly frustrating. There is no magic method but having conversations about your thought process is vital. If you’d like to talk editing or have a project you need some feedback on, get in touch at info@bryanformhals.com

Family Pictures USA

Family Pictures USA journeys through a rapidly changing landscape where the hallmarks of a familiar and idealized “America” are being transformed. From the streets of Detroit, to the shores of Southwest Florida, to the farm fields of North Carolina, we are creating a new purpose for the family photo album…as an integral part of our collective social and cultural history.

I’m starting on it this week. Looks promising.

Ira Glass Tips on Narrative via Barthes

In S/Z, Barthes takes apart a short story by Balzac, line by line. He asks: How does this story pull you in, engage, and give you pleasure? He names things that are helpful if you want to make stories about people. Barthes explains: here’s how to structure a narrative by creating a sequence of events that will create forward motion that will create narrative suspense, planting questions along the way that can be answered.

That turned out to be an enormously useful way to think about how to do an interview. I still structure my interviews by trying to get people to lay out plot, beat by beat, even if the stories are very small.

He’s one of the best storytellers in the business, so always worth of your time. Interviewing is an art and it’s difficult! I learned a lot hosting the LPV Show and hope to get back into doing more in depth interviews in the future.

Further Reading

  • Commuting Has Always Been Soul-Crushing, but There Are Inspiring Options [NYTimes]

  • Transit Can Save the Environment, Just Not How We Expected [Bloomberg]

  • In Garry Winogrand’s City, a Colorful Kaleidoscope Comes Alive [Hyperallergic]

  • What does a traffic jam in Atlanta have to do with segregation? Quite a lot. [NYTimes]

  • Google Maps adds an enormous arrow for the directionally challenged. Turn it on now [cnet]

  • This 22-part plan is how we can feed the world by 2050 [Fast Company]

  • Is self-actualization a biological need? [BigThink]

  • Inside Fotografiska, Manhattan's New Photography Hotspot That's Part Museum, Part Bar [W Magazine]

  • Arctic permafrost is thawing fast. That affects us all. [NatGeo]

  • How digital media killed itself [Spectator USA]

  • As the world becomes more complex, making decisions becomes harder. Is it best to depend on careful analysis or to trust your gut? [Scientific American]

h/t Andy Adams

“it is solved by walking” (& maybe continuous research)

Plus tips for the fine art photography hustle, how the internet is a self-delusion machine and the need to daydream

from the series ‘Manhattan Greenway’

Part of the purpose of writing this newsletter is to help solidify a routine where I can organize my thoughts around the research I’m doing. I essentially consider every piece of media I engage with as a form of research, even when I’m watching true crime on ID or mindlessly scrolling through Instagram. I presume this to be true for most artists, documentarians and writers as well. What we ingest informs what we pursue, research and ultimately create. And it never ends, so even when we finish a project, we’re still engaging with it because it influences where we go next.

This week while I was walking and working, I played the deconstruction game to see how my work has progressed and connected over the years. It’s been a slow process arriving to where I am now and I can see the roots of that journey all the way back to playing sandlot baseball. I feel that I’ve found an equilibrium between research (consumption), reflection and creation. It’s a tenuous balancing act so I’m thankful for this moment of harmony because if life has taught me anything, it’s to expect disruption at anytime from anywhere for any reason.

Here’s what I’m thinking about and consuming this week. Please feel free to drop me a line with recommendations, comments or if you just want to say hello: info@bryanformhals.com


“it is solved by walking” - The Week in Walking Research

Walking a thousand miles a year hasn’t given me a tidy list for how to live a good and effective life that I could stick up on the refrigerator. But it’s kept the promise contained in the Latin phrase solvitur ambulando, or “it is solved by walking.” Originally used to describe a premise that is explored through practical experiment, the phrase has been used by thinkers, writers and travelers throughout millennia of written history, people who believed — because they walked and found it to be true — that walking was an answer to the stuck thought, the sorrowing heart, the moral dilemma. It is the realization that freedom of the mind is intertwined with freedom of movement.

That’s the first time I’ve come across the phrase solvitur ambulando. It might be time for my first tattoo. It’s from an article by writer Antonia Malchik, who published a book earlier this year ‘A Walking Life: Reclaiming Our Health and Our Freedom One Step at a Time,’ which is now on my reading list (I will have a page dedicated to books about walking soon!)

The book was born out of an article she wrote in Aeon called ‘The End of Walking’ which when I re-read it seemed familiar so I must have read it in the past. It’s a great piece on how Americans hate walking and how they’ve made it difficult, and not surprising, the people most impacted are the poor and people of color.

In this 30 minute interview author Dan Rubenstein discusses his book ‘A Walking Life: Reclaiming Our Health and Our Freedom One Step at a Time’

Combining fascinating reportage, eye-opening research, and Rubinstein’s own discoveries, Born to Walk explores how far this ancient habit can take us, how much repair is within range, and guarantees that you’ll never again take walking for granted.

I have this one on my phone now and I’m sure by next weekend I’ll have a few excerpts to share.

Lastly, there’s the latest dispatch from Paul Salopek’s Out of Eden project which is an epic 21,000-mile attempt at “walking the pathways of the first humans who migrated out of Africa.”

The Fine Art Photography Hustle

PDN has an informative article on the tough decisions you need to make while building a fine art photography career.

Jennifer Garza-Cuen also cautions against the temptation to put work out before you are confident of the direction you are headed. “Consistency of vision is important,” she says. “If you come out with one look and then the next day come out with something completely different, people often think: This person’s all over the place, they don’t know what they’re doing.”

———

“Unless you are independently wealthy, that’s often the biggest decision: Where are you going to make your sacrifices? What are you going to put your money toward: Making more work or getting the work out there? Are you going to spend it on a portfolio review, framing for a show, or a new series?”

At this moment, I’m most concerned with putting my resources to making work and continuing to refine it. I struggle with consistency because I tend to view Instagram as a sketchbook for ideas, so when I post from my archive, it’s normally at the service of something I’m working on with a current project. There’s also the notion that there’s some deadline an artist must reach to be successful. I hope by now most people understand that breakthroughs can happen at an age or stage in one’s career. Keep at it!

The first time I learned about Hura’s work was at a 10x10 Photobooks salon.

“What I was trying to photograph was a pulse of the world that I was living in, here in India. That was something I could only allude to and not straitjacket down into something more definitive. Giving a straightforward explanation of the project would have removed all other possible entry points into the work. That would have negated everything the work is trying to do in the first place, which is to take the audience to a place out of doubt, because that is the situation today – we don’t know what to believe or not.” 

Read the full review on photoeye, and be sure to check out his Instagram which is a recent favorite.

The Internet is “an engine of self-delusion”

This interview with author Jia Tolentino about her new book ‘Trick Mirror’ offers some good insights about the attention economy, especially the segment on how personal branding is a form of self-delusion.

Perhaps LinkedIn is a social media oasis because we all know the rules of the corporate communication game.

The overwhelming incentive, as a job seeker, is toward caution. Likewise, there is little reason, as a boss, to tangle with especially difficult subjects. LinkedIn is plainly not a place to organize a union. Its mission is to mediate and facilitate a fundamentally unequal process. Topics that can be risky for rank-and-file workers to bring up in an office, such as pay inequality, diversity or workplace harassment, tend to unfold on LinkedIn in the manner of an event organized by human resources.

I have not been active on LinkedIn as I pivot into a new career focus but when the time is right, I will utilize it.

If the internet is a machine of self-delusion, then what does that say about how we formulate memories we share? In the New Yorker, writer Nausicaa Renner reviews two books on how social media shapes our identity.

On the other hand, Eichhorn writes, such media can prevent those who wish to break with their past from doing so cleanly. We’re not the only ones posting; our friends and family chronicle our lives, usually without our consent. Growing up online, Eichhorn worries, might impede our ability to edit memories, cull what needs to be culled, and move on. “The potential danger is no longer childhood’s disappearance, but rather the possibility of a perpetual childhood,” she writes. We may, in short, have traded “screen memories for screens.”

I can’t imagine growing up knowing that an Instagram account was created in your name with all of your childhood photos and the comments accessible to anyone. That might be one of the generational divides that I will never be able to comprehend.

But, I do know how to daydream, and completely agree with Neil Gaiman.

We all – adults and children, writers and readers – have an obligation to daydream. We have an obligation to imagine. It is easy to pretend that nobody can change anything, that we are in a world in which society is huge and the individual is less than nothing: an atom in a wall, a grain of rice in a rice field. But the truth is, individuals change their world over and over, individuals make the future, and they do it by imagining that things can be different.

Further Reading

  • We’re Eating This Planet to Death [Wired]

  • What Should an Artist Save? [NYTimes]

  • Why Speed Kills Cities [CityLab]

  • 9 Cities Where Public Transit Offers Eye-Popping Views [NYTimes]

  • Swedes are switching from planes to trains — here's why [NBC News]

Manifest Dismantling and Scroll Editing

Walking is a Superpower, How to Do Nothing, Strava Art and more!

I sat down to start working on this newsletter yesterday when the reports about the El Paso domestic terrorism event started to cross the wire. I was glued to the news and Twitter following the story and was overcome with that mixture of anger and sadness that goes with this type of news. Then this morning, it got worse with the shooting in Dayton.

It’s heartbreaking. There’s a sickness deep in the soul of America and it’s going to take a monumental, collective effort to cure it.


Here are a few items I’ve been looking at, reading and thinking about this week. Please feel free to drop me a line if you’ve got a suggestion for me or just want to say hi. Drop me a line here: info@bryanformhals.com

Book: How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell

“I am interested in manifest dismantling as a form of purposiveness bound up with remediation, something that requires us to give up the idea that progress can only face forward blindly. It provides a new direction for our work ethic. Remediation certainly takes the same amount of work: in this case, a dam that had taken three years to build took close to the same amount of time to remove.”

I finished ‘How to Do Nothing’ this week and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s a must read. Odell spoke directly to many things I’ve been feeling about the attention economy the last few years that it feels like a revelation.

I will probably mention it more in the future as I digest it and re-read the highlights but today I want to share the quote above because I think the idea of ‘manifest dismantling’ is not only inspiring but vital to fixing many of the problems we face. An example of that idea is the debate about tearing down I-81 in Syracuse which is brilliantly covered in this Jalopnik article.

Walking is a Superpower

“One of the great overlooked superpowers we have is that, when we get up and walk, our senses are sharpened. Rhythms that would previously be quiet suddenly come to life, and the way our brain interacts with our body changes.”

I came across a few articles about ‘In Praise of Walking,’ a new book by neuroscientist Shane O’Mara’s which was just released. I have it on the way and can’t wait to dive in I’ve been searching for more information about the neuroscience of walking so this book is timely.

“In order to walk and navigate, the brain flickers between regions, just as our waking minds are often, says O’Mara, “flickering between big-picture states – thinking about what we have to do tomorrow, plans for next year, engaging in what is called ‘mental time travel’ – and task-focused work. And you need to flicker between these states in order to do creative work.” That’s how important associations get made, and this flickering seems to be bolstered by walking.

We often say we’re allowing our mind to wander but perhaps what we’re really doing is allowing our mind to make new connections. Read more in The Guardian.

…there is a particular wisdom to be found in mindful walking. “This is walking at a slower pace in which you are conscious of every step, every breath and the sound of a bird or a twig cracking. I do better when I am mindful of my breathing when I’m walking,” he explained.

O’Mara agrees that walking can bring a great experience of flow. “Walking can allow you to escape yourself and this non-ego focus is healthy. We should spend more time not thinking of ourselves,” he says.

Mindful walking has many of the same effects as meditation for me, but what I think has had the most impact on me is how it forces me to be completely present in the moment and attentive to may surroundings. Read more in the Irish Times.

Scroll Editing on Instagram

I posted a scroll layout of some street photography from 2010-2014 on Instagram and had a few people ask about the app I use. It’s called SCRL and it’s a breeze to use. I’ve found I tend to get higher engagement when I post layout edits than standard slideshows. Of course that could have a lot to do with the content and less to do with the format but I tend to think people appreciate the editing effort, plus I think it’s more representative of how I view my photography as well.

Making Artwork on Strava

For the past four years, Lenny Maughan has been turning his routes into art. His paths through the city are carefully chosen so that, viewed on a map, they form illustrations of everything from a simple heart shape to the starship Enterprise. 

I’ve been using Strava more consistently this year to map my walks and find it fascinating. I’ve caught myself looking at the shape of the walks and wondering what I could do to integrate that into my projects, but I never thought of going down route this guy went. It’s impressive. View more on The Guardian.

Further Reading

  • Podcast: Nathan Jurgenson on social media and the selfie [FT.com]

  • How did YouTube become the most popular music streaming site? By sounding like the world itself. [Washington Post]

  • Autonomous Car Industry’s Frightening Vision for Cities [Streetsblog]

  • The great collapse of copyright [Paul Melcher]

  • This Is the Beginning of the End of the Beef Industry [Outdoor]

Production days + this week's recommendations

Breezewood Meme Photograph, Soth Doc, Photographs & Money, a Mirror Universe? & McKenna on the Internet

There’s normally a welcome moment after I’ve started the field work on a new project that I realize I’m in new territory and it won’t end up as I’ve envisioned it. That’s part of what makes creating stuff so interesting and exciting. I definitely had that feeling this week as Tom and I started recording and shooting footage for our new show. It’s exciting to move forward after a few months of research and planning but we still have a lot of work ahead of us.

Here’s what caught my eye this week. More photography stories than in previous weeks! Thanks for reading, drop me a line if you have a tip on a good story info AT bryanformhals.com

Burtynsky’s Breezewood Meme Photograph

Getting such a striking image of the place took a lot more work than most meme-sharers might realize. Burtynsky told me he spent three days in town scouting vantage points and setting up the shot. He often shoots from helicopters, but here he relied on an earthbound rig.

“I’d rented a four-wheel drive and a scissor lift that had the ability to take me up 80 feet,” he recalled. “I was just driving around everywhere with it, hiking it up and looking for the point of view. I kept trying and trying, and no, no, no. Eventually, near the end of the second day, I found this motel slightly up on a hill. And in the parking lot of the motel, if I hiked [the lift] up and used a slightly longer lens, which adds to the compression, I was able to create the shot.”

I’ve seen these memes pop up on transportation and urbanism Twitter the last year but didn’t realize it was an Edward Burtynsky photo. The documentary ‘Manufactured Landscapes’ gives a deeper glimpse into his creative process. There’s also a documentary for The Anthropocene Project but I have not seen that yet. Have you?

Alec Soth Documentary

The Minnesota-based, internationally-revered photographer Alec Soth recently released his ninth book, entitled ‘I Know How Furiously Your Heart Is Beating.’ But in the summer of 2017, less than two years before the book’s release, Alec wasn’t dreaming up plans for a new series of photographs. In fact he was doing the opposite - he was considering walking away from photography altogether.

The narrative about Soth’s creative evolution and process has always run parallel to his work and the hype around it. It’s part how he’s able to control the narrative. At first, it was his popular, legendary blog where he really honed his voice around the creative process. After that died, it was the regular interviews that would accompany his new books. Most recently, it’s his Instagram account where he’s consistently meditating on the creative process and new ideas.

This short documentary brings it all to life and I think gets to the core of his tension with art. There’s a lot to learn from him. For me, it’s that you should only make art if it will also make you a better person. See also: Blake Andrews reviews ‘I Know How Furiously Your Heart Is Beating'‘

“Was the automotive industry a terrible mistake?” - YES

In theory, private driverless cars can reduce that waste. Instead of owning two cars, you can have a single car that drives Mom to work, drives itself back home, ferries Dad and the kids around, and zooms back to the office to pick up Mom. Yet the new gridlock-producing waste of this arrangement—“zombie car” trips, by empty vehicles—leads Schwartz to argue that we must move away from the idea of owning cars and see them as a shared resource, like taxis. He favors “a pricing strategy that discourages private ownership in urban areas, recognizing that, for people who live in rural areas and remote locations, personal vehicles are a necessity.”

This is a great essay in the New Yorker about the price we’ve paid for not understanding the negative impacts of car culture. It focuses on how driverless cars and car sharing could impact transportation in the United States. There’s no question we need fewer cars on the street. It needs to happen in cities first.

M. Scott Brauer on the Campaign Trail

M. Scott Brauer is back on the campaign trail and has a new website for the project. He was on the LPV Show back in 2016 and it was a fascinating discussion about photographing politics.

Money Talks: Eve Lyons and Matthew Leifheit

I see a lot of artists who have to start making compromises to support a family or a lifestyle or even a relationship, which I totally respect. But I actually put my art practice before almost everything in my life. Like my health or personal relationships for example. And if it really came down to it, I think I would rather move to Boise or Topeka or wherever and live above a strip mall and work some stupid job just to be able to keep making my own photographs. I would rather do that than do a lot of things I didn’t care about to have a nicer apartment or live in New York or make another human being or whatever it may be. I am just trying to make a masterpiece. This is sounding really self-righteous! But I think it’s true that I would rather blow up my life and go live in a trash can than stop making the art I want to make.

That quote is from photographer and editor Matt Leifheit and I think it’s spot on. Read the full conversation in the latest issue of the superb Rocket Science Magazine.

Will we discover a mirror universe?

Zurab Berezhiani, a physicist at the University of L’Aquila in Italy who has conducted his own mirror neutron searches, offers an intriguing explanation: Dark matter has been hard to find because it is hidden away in the mirror world. In this view, dark matter and mirror matter are one and the same. If so, the mirror world is not just ubiquitous, it is far more massive than our own. At a recent physics conference, Berezhiani expanded on the idea, outlining a possible parallel reality full of mirror stars, mirror galaxies and mirror black holes. Maybe even dark life?

The tech industry generates a non-stop stream of media coverage and it often revolves around services and businesses that don’t matter much in the grand scheme. Conversely you don’t read much about the technology pushing the boundaries of science until you read a headline about a potential discovery of a mirror universe. What? I’m hope I alive during one of the major scientific break throughs that will inevitably happen.

Terence McKenna Talking About the Internet in 1996

Further Reading

  • Q&A with Photographer Anthony Hernandez [LATimes]

  • FaceApp Is the Future [NYTimes]

  • Photojournalism as Iconography: The Most Beautiful Suicide [Codex 99]

  • Trailer for documentary on Jay Maisel [Stephen Wilkes]

NYC & Immigration; walking is trending; peak newsletter; revisiting Camilo José Vergara

July 21, 2019

A newsletter about walking, photography, and the media-tech attention complex

I'm deep into doing research for the new project, and much of it focuses on New York City. I've been living here for 10 years now which I've heard is the timespan required to become an official 'New Yorker.' I think that most people living in a metropolis like NYC, Los Angeles, London, or Tokyo at some point has that feeling like they just can't grasp the enormity of the place. Part of that feeling has to do with history as well.

For many people, history doesn't have much relevance on their daily lives, at least that they’re aware of. But I'm fascinated by history. When I read about a person or an event, I’m often struck by how much it relates to something happening today. This week I revisited the great PBS documentary New York which covers the history of the city up through 9/11. It's impossible to watch it and not understand that New York City is perhaps the greatest experiment in immigration that's ever existed.

It's not a perfect experiment by any means. There have been serious mistakes, and there continue to be mistakes. It's often been a brutal history for the most vulnerable but it's simply impossible for the city to exist without the dynamic creativity and hard work of immigrants.

As I finished the series at the end of the week, all I could think is that there's a good portion of this country that just has no clue about the history of New York City which is really integrally tied to the history of the United States. There simply is no United States without immigration.*

*The series also covers the brutal violence inflicted on the Lenape, the original inhabitants of Manhattan. The genocide of Native Americans on the North American continent is a tragedy that we have not done nearly enough to address. I know I need to do more to learn the history and contemporary issues.

Walking: "Glorified for its creative benefits, the pastime has become yet another goal-driven pursuit."

  • The more conscious writers become of its creative benefits, the more walking takes on the quality of goal-driven labor, the very thing we are meant to be marching against. The hazard was always there. William Hazlitt gestures toward it in his entry in Beneath My Feet. “When I am in the country,” he writes, “I wish to vegetate like the country.” If he begins to feel that he has to produce a piece of writing from his walks, like “my old friend Coleridge,” then he’s “making a toil of a pleasure.”

'The Unbearable Smugness of Walking': Well, that headline is nearly impossible for me to ignore. I found it about 10 minutes after sending last weeks newsletter.

The author reviews two books about the relationship between walking and literature which is a frequent topic. For the writer, walking often stimulates their imagination and facilitates new ideas. I think many walkers can relate to that, even if they aren't writers.

For the photographer, obviously walking acts as a more direct method of creation. And then there are just the people that walk for leisure. I feel that I often fall into all three categories but I do agree with the article in some regard, it does seem like walking might become just another productivity hack. Walking is also becoming trendy, exhibit A --> ‘Walkers are middle aged, hikers are cool’

I had a few conversations on Twitter this week about photoland. It felt like old times, and a repeat of many of the conversations we were having 10 and 5 years ago. I think the photography industry has probably become more cutthroat in the last five years, primarily because the media industry continues to struggle as well as an increasing number of small fine art photography publishers.

The reality is that the market just can't support all the talented photographers. It's a shame. I have definitely felt the squeeze and I have plenty of anxiety about my plans moving forward. As Jonathan Blaustein said, "we all have multiple hustles these days"

Camilo Jose Vergara popped up on the New York documentary during the 9/11 episodes and I immediately had that moment of finally remembering a name that always slips my mind. It's strange. I've known of his work for a long time but for the life of me I can never remember his name. So now I have his website bookmarked and I think you should take a look if you haven't. His primary project is a long term rephotography project that's just brilliant.

Peak Newsletter

  • To me, part of that ethos is retained in the newsletter ecosystem. “The magic of newsletters, I think, is how they cut through the noise of social media and establish this consistent, pretty intimate connection,” said Cai, who in 2015 spun her habit of DM’ing links to coworkers into Deez Links, and who now has 1,200 subscribers. “You end up building a relationship with people in a format that isn’t completely obsessive about the scale of your audience or monetization, so it can kind of float under the radar and feel like a big inside joke or a fun club.” As Warshaw put it, “in this age of the attention economy, newsletters let you be intentional about who you give your attention to.”

Yes newsletters are trendy in the media industry but they've also been with us for a long time. I think this current evolution of newsletters is here to stay because we just don't trust social platforms.

My biggest regret is not starting a newsletter ten years ago when I was publishing LPV. At the time, I believed that social media should be the focus but I was wrong. I firmly believe the strategy is to focus on building your own blog and newsletter rather than focusing primarily on social media.

Further Reading

  • Are nature documentaries the greatest art of our time? [Washington Post]

  • Cops, Uniforms, and the Visualisation of Power [Magnum Photos]

  • Cars take up way too much space in cities. New technology could change that. [Vox]

  • America has fallen out of love with the suburbs [Fast Company]

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