Perimeter walk photos; Supernovas and Walking; Insta w/o the likes

Bryan Formhals

A newsletter about walking, photography, creativity, and New York City!

June 2, 2019

1. New photos from walking the Manhattan Greenway

I scanned and edited the photos from the walk around the Manhattan perimeter. I'm excited by the initial edit, now it's time to make some small prints and edit. I'll share some sequences on Instagram soon as well. From there, I plan on starting a larger edit from the two companion series to finalize the project. It feels good to be reaching the end but I know there's still plenty of work ahead.

Here are a few of the items I'm paying attention to this week. Please feel free to drop me a line if you find something that might be of interesting. Thank for reading!

2. Did an ancient supernova induce proto-humans to walk?

  • "It is thought there was already some tendency for hominins to walk on two legs, even before this event," said lead author Adrian Melott, professor emeritus of physics & astronomy at the University of Kansas. "But they were mainly adapted for climbing around in trees. After this conversion to savanna, they would much more often have to walk from one tree to another across the grassland, and so they become better at walking upright. They could see over the tops of grass and watch for predators. It's thought this conversion to savanna contributed to bipedalism as it became more and more dominant in human ancestors."

How could you not get excited by the intersection of walking and astrophysics? It's fascinating how cosmic events have impacted human evolution over and over. What do the cosmos have in store for us next? [phys.org]

3. "What if Instagram Got Rid of Likes?"

  • "Looking forward, though, a nearly number-free social media is somewhat easier to visualize. If you primarily consume Instagram Stories, you’re already seeing one version of it. And today, what you see on Twitter and Instagram already depends on a mixture of signals— things you’ve liked in the past, how much time you’ve spent looking at a particular user’s content, whether you communicate privately with a given user and whether you have an affinity for some topic or another — not just chronology, likes or retweets. Those signals are all metrics too, of a sort, invisible to us but very much legible to the platforms themselves. Imagine a ticker in your Instagram app counting up the number of times you’ve scrolled, or tallying the number of times you’ve tapped, or counting up the seconds you’ve spent looking at an image. These already exist, somewhere, and may inform what you see every day. They’re just not for you to know."

Jon Herrman at the NYTimes digs into the move to de-emphasize public metrics on Twitter and Instagram. Working on the corporate side of social media, I can already say that brands have moved past vanity metrics a long time ago. Followers don't matter, it's all about engagement and conversion. Of course, for photographers and artists, the vanity metrics still go a long way, because people get hired for have large followings. The trend toward micro-influencers will only increase.

4. The Center Awards: Strange Land by Cody Cobb

  • "These portraits of the Earth’s surface were made during extended periods of solitude while in various states of being lost, cold, hungry or sleep-deprived. Having been stripped of basic human comforts, I’m forced to confront the staggering indifference of the forces that have shaped our existence. In this exhaustion, there’s a moment of surrender to the unforgiving and unknowable. When isolated in an unfamiliar terrain, there’s a calmness that settles over me and I’m only allowed to observe as my internal experience becomes entangled with the external topology. These photographs are an attempt to capture a surreal and occasionally confusing glimpse at the subtleties of enormity."

Cody Cobb won second prize in the Curator's Choice category in The Center Awards. I've seen his work over the years but had never read that statement before. The level of commitment it takes to spend weeks on end by yourself to make photographs is impressive. I love being in nature but surviving in nature is another matter.

5. Video: What makes your city walkable?

7. Author Dan Barasch: "the city needs to be funding green spaces and public parks."

  • "What that means in practice, and where I’d like to change – and it’s a much bigger problem that it might even sound naive to put it out there from a policy standpoint but – the city needs to be funding green spaces and public parks and leading the country and even the world in investing in public and social infrastructure in a way that is a lot more forceful than it currently is. We need public spaces and green spaces and we need spaces where the most vulnerable members in our communities can enjoy. It shouldn’t be seen as a nice to do, it should be seen as one of the reasons why New York City is a livable, beautiful and brilliant place to live, not for tourists but for actual residents who live here."

I first started paying more attention to the green spaces in New York when I began to photograph the hiking trails in the city limits. New York has great green spaces but there needs to be more and they need to be better integrated. This is especially true of Western Queens where I live but that topic might be a tad too local for you! You can read more of the interview with Dan Barasch, Co-Founder of The Lowline and the author of the newly published Ruin and Redemption in Architecture on Untapped Cities.

6. Further Reading


18 of the World’s Most Wondrous Public Transportation Options [Atlas Obscura] // Wood wide web: Trees' social networks are mapped [BBC] // The Beauty Premium: How Urban Beauty Affects Cities’ Economic Growth [CityLab] // 10 Ways to Eliminate Loneliness Through Design [Arch Daily] // 8 must-watch environmental documentaries to kick off your summer [Grist]