#39: Walking When It's Too Cold

+ Garnette Cadogan | 'Walking Between Two Seas in Istanbul' | Portfolio Editing

Hello! This week my Rand McNally map of New York City arrived. I promptly taped it to my wall and have been looking at it daily since. Now I want more maps.

If you recently signed up or this caught your attention through Twitter, I’m Bryan Formhals, and this is my weekly newsletter on walking, New York City, photography, maps and the creative process.

Walking: I’ve grown to enjoy walking in the cold with my general cut off at around 20 ºF. When it dips below that point, I have a hard time focusing on anything other than being cold. Over the years, I’ve optimized my layering strategy to assure maximum warmth. I like being prepared. On a related note, I finally bought a high quality umbrella, my first one after living in New York for 10 years.

You must be thinking that I’m running out of material if I’ve resorted to talking about the weather. After saying hello, it’s probably the most common form of chit chat. You can always talk about the weather. And we probably should because the weather is getting stranger every year due to climate change.

It was a cold one this past Friday when I met with Alex Wolfe of Pedestrian Magazine for our first walk. Pedestrian had come across my radar earlier last year, so I was happy when Alex reached out. I enjoyed learning about his projects and ideas (we’re already hatching collaborations.) It was another reminder of the generous nature of walkers. I’m convinced there’s a secret knowledge that passionate walkers share, and can recognize in each other. We might have different reasons for walking but one thing we all seem to understand is that finding fellow walkers is always a joy.

And why walk, if not to create a new set of possibilities? Following serendipity, I added new routes to the mental maps I had made from constant walking in that city from childhood to young adulthood, traced variations on the old pathways. Serendipity, a mentor once told me, is a secular way of speaking of grace; it’s unearned favor. Seen theologically, then, walking is an act of faith. Walking is, after all, interrupted falling. We see, we listen, we speak, and we trust that each step we take won’t be our last, but will lead us into a richer understanding of the self and the world. - Garnette Cadogan, ‘Walking While Black’

Walkers & Books: In 2018, I went to a screening of ‘The World Before Your Feet’ where protagonist Matt Green was giving a Q&A. Near the end of it he invited Garnette Cadogan up to answer a few questions as he made a cameo in the movie. Cadogan spoke about his experience walking in New York City as a person of color, and the tactics he used to stay safe while walking. When I got home I researched him and found his essay ‘Walking While Black’ which has received numerous accolades. It’s a must read. I was reminded of Garnette today when I picked up ‘Nonstop Metropolis’ at the library. He has an epic essay about his 24 hour walk in NYC that I’m itching to read.

Walking as a black man has made me feel simultaneously more removed from the city, in my awareness that I am perceived as suspect, and more closely connected to it, in the full attentiveness demanded by my vigilance. It has made me walk more purposefully in the city, becoming part of its flow, rather than observing, standing apart. - Garnette Cadogan, ‘Walking While Black’

(Photo by Serkan Taycan)

Art & Walking: I have a lot of research to do yet about contemporary art projects incorporating walking. Thankfully, I have a few collaborators like Magali who will alert me they come across something (please send me more links! —> info@bryanformhals.com).

Taycan first exhibited the map and photos of his walking project, entitled Between Two Seas, at the 13th Istanbul Biennial in fall 2013, when he also began organizing group walks along the route. Since then, he has led hundreds of people over the four-segment walk, in 33 events to date. Using his map as a guide, others have cycledrun, and camped along it independently. As the canal project has become a subject of renewed political controversy in recent months, activists have also begun organizing protest walks along the Between Two Seas route, most recently a seven-mile outing on Sunday, February 2. - ‘The Artist Walking Between Two Seas in Istanbul’

2009, Somewhere in the midwest during my road trip back to St. Cloud, Minnesota after living in Los Angeles. Made with a Mamiya 7 on Kodak Portra 400 film.

Archives & Editing: I feel like I have a solid archiving and back up strategy but recently I’ve started to doubt it. For one, I don’t a portfolio of prints. It’s shameful. There are a lot of reasons for it (right now it’s budget), but I know it’s something I need to build. So I’ve thrown out my hang ups on editing only for projects and have started working on a portfolio edit.

I’m starting by sharing them on Instagram in no particular order. Then I’ll print them. Something interesting happened along the way though. I started to wonder what data I could associate with the photos, especially those from Los Angeles and the first couple years in New York. This thought process has made me keenly aware of gathering data and making field notes for the new photographs I’m making on film. I really regret not incorporating this practice much earlier. Another hazard of being an autodidact.

Further Reading


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 existential dread.