Issue #65: Field Notes with Another Place

+ Leaving NYC, Social Audio, Clubhouse and a Talk with Jessica Eaton, a Few Photobooks on the Radar

Hello! Thanks for reading! I’m Bryan and this is my newsletter on walking, photography, and leaving New York City.

The novelty of walking in a new location and landscape is exciting. Back in 2014, I started making day trips on the Long Island Rail Road, visiting various towns in Nassau County, and at the end of the project Suffolk County. Walking in this part of the New York metropolis was exactly what I needed at the time, and I feel the resulting photographs are a good representation of my thinking and approach.

A few months ago, Iain Sarjeant of Another Place Press reached out to discuss publishing some of the photos I made on Long Island as part of their great Field Notes series. As a fan (from afar) of the series, I thought it would an interesting collaboration.

I’m a huge fan of independent publishers. It takes serious dedication to put your time and energy into promoting the work of others. It reminds of this great quote from Robert Adams: 

“Your own photography is never enough. Every photographer who has lasted has depended on other peoples pictures too – photographs that may be public or private, serious or funny but that carry with them a reminder of community.”

The zine which we’re titling ‘Notes from LIRR Walks’ will come out later this spring along with two other great photographers, my old pal Ben Roberts and Faustine Ferhmin


It’s Time to Say Goodbye to New York City and All That

Going through the Long Island work was a reminder of how walking novel landscapes sparked my imagination and made me excited to pursue new projects. The last few years I’ve had that same feeling as I walk the parks and pedestrian infrastructure but coming out of the pandemic I’ve hit a wall. Do I really want to walk these paths for the rest of my life? Do I want all my photographs to be of New York City? The answer is no.

I’ve been craving novelty again, but this time I feel I need to get further away. That’s partly why I’ve decided to move out of New York and back to my hometown of St. Cloud, Minnesota. I’ve been here since February of 2009. That’s 12 years! It’s been a helluva ride but I’m ready for a change, and it’ll be great to be closer to friends and family. 

I’m excited to take what I’ve learned exploring the pedestrian experience in New York City to a new place and landscape, one that will be dramatically different in terms of scale. 

St. Cloud has a population of around 60,000 residents and sits at the heart of the Central Minnesota metro area which encompasses around 192,000 people. It’s 70 miles north of the Twin Cities so it’s generally considered on the outskirts of the larger metropolitan area. Minneapolis and St. Paul are widely considered to have the best park systems in the country. I lived there for a few years at the turn of the century, but didn’t explore the park system much. I’m looking forward to getting out on foot to see them for myself. 

There’s a long history of writers and artists penning their farewells to New York City that started with the classic Joan Didion essay “Goodbye to All That.” I still have yet to read it, but over the years I’ve read subsequent essays from others leaving New York. They are interesting and insightful at times, but for the most, when you live here for a long time, you grow accustomed to people coming and going. That’s New York City. Welcome! Have fun paying rent. See you later! Good luck finding somewhere as interesting.

Since the pandemic started nearly a year ago, people have been fleeing New York City and other expensive coastal cities. It’s now part of the pandemic discourse, potentially signaling a permanent shift in where privileged, ambitious young people choose to live. I’m skeptical. I think people will always want to live in cities like New York or San Francisco. And others will try it, and then move out. That’s the nature of it.


Planning the Final NYC Walks

With only a few weeks left, I’ve been plotting my final walks, knowing that I basically have one last chance to wrap up some of these ideas and projects. I appreciate the pressure and look forward to wrapping up the entire New York project. It’ll take some time and space away from the work to figure out how it all fits together, but I’m excited to see how my perception of it changes over time. 

These are the walks I have sketched out right now.

  • Old Croton Aqueduct - Beginning and Ending

  • Skyway - La Guardia to JFK

  • Broadway Through Manhattan

  • One last walk to the Queens Giant

  • Coney Island to Rockaway

  • Sunnyside Perimeter


Social Audio + Clubhouse conversation with Jessica Eaton 

I’m sure you’ve heard a bit of the buzz about Clubhouse, the social audio app that is the darling of the very online tech and media crowd. I’m here to say the hype is well deserved. I believe social audio will continue to catch on and that these live, improvised conversations will resonate with people.

I’ve always loved conversation as a format, that’s why I produced the LPV Show! Conversing with other smart, creative, weird, interesting people is always illuminating.

So, why not just keep doing the podcast? Well, it’s a lot of work! And Clubhouse is not! The conversations are not recorded so you have to be there. I’ve done a couple now with photographer and designer Wayne Bremser, and we’ve had about 5 people in the room max. Ok, so that’s basically like chatting with a few buddies at this point. Fair enough. But there are other rooms that have hundreds and thousands of people in them, and I think over time photoland will catch on.

Twitter has a new feature called Spaces in beta right now. That could replace Clubhouse, and integrate more seamlessly with the Twitter experience. I’m bullish though. I think people crave the intimacy of conversation, and want to connect through dialogue.

Tomorrow night at 8EST, I’ll be hosting a conversation with the brilliant artist Jessica Eaton. I’m sure many of you have seen her work over the years. Here’s a screenshot! 

The topic of the conversation will center around the creative process, how Jessica makes her work and why we find all of these endlessly fascinating.

You’ll need to be on Clubhouse to listen, and it won’t be recorded, and Clubhouse is only for IOS. So yeah, there’s some friction to participating, but I have a few invites left, so if you are curious, drop me a line social@bryanformhals.com


Amuleto by Ben Roberts and Francheska Melendez

Amuleto, published by Herepress, is the result of a collaboration between Roberts and his partner, writer Francheska Melendez. It combines Roberts’ images with fragments of text and quotes assembled by Melendez, from friends, family, or strangers she met in the town. “The pressure of the pandemic pushed us to bring together our individual responses and reactions,” Roberts explains. “Rather than remain isolated in our particular experience, we found a way to have a conversation about what was happening – with me speaking in visuals and Francheska speaking in text. It became a way to digest the situation.” - British Journal of Photography

Ben Roberts has another book coming out, this one with Herepress, focusing on the pandemic lockdown. This looks like an interesting text - image collaboration with with his wife Francheska.


A Parallel Road by Amani Willet

A romantic concept of ‘The Road’ has been embraced in American popular culture since the mid-20th century. Writers, artists and photographers, many inspired by revelations surrounding the Beat Generation’s legendary road trips, have long portrayed the idea of the road as a metaphorical symbol of freedom, independence and self-discovery. Strikingly absent from this cumulative portrait is the Black American experience of the road which is often associated with fear, violence and death rather than freedom. This stark contrast is in conflict with the promise of familial fun times that the road trip afforded to white Americans.

This looks like another great book from Amani. I own his first two books, Disquiet and The Disappearance Of Joseph Plummer, both of which are fantastic. He’s the real deal, and this latest book, A Parallel Road, is timely given the rational reckoning of the last year.


Further


I’m an photographer, writer and social media strategist moving from NYC to St. Cloud. This is my newsletter on art, walking, and mindfulness. Each issue, I share new work from my projects and try to make connections between ideas, articles and people that fascinate me. You can email me at info@bryanformhals.com or follow me on Instagram & Twitter