“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.”

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“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]