#32: Walking Into 2020

Plus you should cultivate surprise, Shannon Taggart Seance, the longest walks, time management hazards & more links!

Ten years ago I was only a few months into my life in New York City. I had no idea if I was going to be living here permanently. I’d arrived to cat (his name was Max) sit for a photographer acquaintance I’d met on Flickr. I thought it might just be an extended vacation but I managed to find a few temp jobs and lease a room. Once you get your footing in the city, then it starts to grow on you. It was a rough few years but eventually I knew I was in the right place.

Over the last decade I’ve worked on a few different projects I’ve shot on film and have always carried my digital camera with me. I think a photo is a photo and it doesn’t matter what you choose to use. For me, shooting with a digital camera has been liberating because of the volume of photos I’ve been able to create. I started to make yearly edits of these photos and over the years I’ve become more interested in archives and data. I think it’s going to be fascinating in a few years to see what we’ll do with digital photo archives and machine learning.

For the last year, I’ve been moving in a few new directions with my projects and I’m not sure I feel the same need to make so many digital photos. I’m working on some new ideas and I think sometimes you need to stop doing things to evolve and break out of habits. Plus, I’ve been shooting more video with my phone and the Osmo pocket. I’d like to see where I can go with that.

I’m kicking around a few ideas to wrap it up as a decade long sketch type project. For now, all I’ve got to show are the edits, which I’ve paired down to 52 photos per year. That’s a lot of photos for anyone to go through, so no expectations! I think my 2019 edit demonstrates where my subject matter focus will be with my projects the next few years. It’s been a productive year and I’m looking for to building on it in 2020.

It’d be great to hear about other multi-year sketch or archive projects! Drop me a line.

As we’re entering the slowest week of the year where nobody pays attention to the internet, I’m going to skip next week but will return in 2020. I hope everyone has a great new year and thanks for reading these last few months.


Discover the Surprises in Your Art Media Entertainment Feeds

Art’s deepest impact comes when it is least expected. In contrast, algorithmic recommendations lead us down a path of pleasant monotony: a looming monoculture of the similar. To resist it, we should embrace obscurity, difficulty, diversity, and strangeness as just as important as recognizability or universality. These are the qualities that need most to be preserved against the frictionless consumption pushed by our automated feeds. - Kyle Chayka, Vox

You’ll need some patience to get through this one but it’s worth it. There are some thoughtful insights about how we’ve consumed culture in the last half decade or so. And the advice in the quote above is something I want to strive for in the next year. Although, I tend to be laser focused on a few topics these days, so I don’t encounter as much randomness as I did a few years ago. I guess I need to open up the streams or find new methods for encountering it. I think that’ll probably come from gallery hopping again.

Shannon Taggart, Seance…again

“Taggart’s images are heartfelt and strange, and I think it doesn’t matter whether one believes in these spirits or not – her photographs are still enchanting and remarkable. In a way, she becomes a medium herself, transmitting the world of her subjects through her art. She explores the mystery of both Spiritualism and photography, capturing the space between the real and the elusive or imagined. Séance stands as a surprisingly compelling in-depth photographic study of Spiritualism as practiced today, looking carefully at the hidden community that attempts to connect with the unseen.” - Olia Yatskevich, Collector Daily

An excellent review of Shannon’s book by Olia. By the way, you can hear my conversation with Shannon from a few years ago on the LPV Show. Her book was also in good company (including Rihanna) over on Time’s list of the 30 best books.

The Longest Walks and Walks and Walks

The longest known ongoing religious pilgrimage is by a man named Arthur Blessitt, who’s walked over 40,000 miles since 1969. His walk isn’t contiguous, and has therefore included all seven continents, where he has carried a large cross and preached his Christian beliefs. Now 79 years old, Blessitt has walked in every nation on Earth during his 50-year walking career. For someone who’s walked in Antarctica, the inhabited north of Russia may be doable. And he’s already walked in the nations along the 14,000 walk from South Africa to Magadan. - Popular Mechanics

Answers a question I probably would have started researching at some point in the near future. The full article is about the longest walking route on Earth, which is a 14,000 mile route from South Africa to the extreme north Russia. I’m not dreaming of doing that one.

Is Time Management Ruining Your Life?

The best companies I visited, all through the years, were never very hurried,” DeMarco said. “Maybe they used pressure from time to time, as a sort of amusing side-effect. But it was never a constant. Because you don’t get creativity for free. You need people to be able to sit back, put their feet up, and think.” Manual work can be speeded up, at least to a certain extent, by increasing the time pressure on workers. But good ideas do not emerge more rapidly when people feel under the gun – if anything, the good ideas dry up. - The Guardian

There just no possible way that human beings are going to be their most productive and creative if they are under stress and tied to a desk staring at a screen for 50 hours a week. I think in the next decade we’ll realize this formula has been foolish and the smartest companies will began to understand the importance allowing for a more customizable work/life balance.

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.