#23: Walking to Brooklyn Museum for JR & Winogrand

Plus Seance by Shannon Taggart, Tim Carpenter, Christmas Day, Bucks Pond Road, Preserving the World’s Silent Places & more links!

A few years back I was chatting with a friend from the west coast and they asked me if I’d seen a recent big photography show at one of the museums. I told them “no, I missed it.” They were perplexed. “Isn’t one of the reasons you live in NYC to take advantage of the cultural opportunities?”

It’s a valid point and my excuse for missing shows is sometimes nothing more than a physical (and spiritual) reluctance to go into Manhattan. More often than not though I’m using my free time to get outside, walk and make my own photographs. Striking a balance between consumption and creation can be challenging. It’s easy to consume art, especially in digital bytes but creating it takes time, a lot of time. So, something often has to give. For me, that has meant missing museum and gallery shows. But I’m determined to change my ways and this year I plan on increasing the number of shows I attend.

Last Thursday I stopped by the Brooklyn Museum on my walk to Greenwood Cemetery for Shannon Taggart’s talk about her new book (more on that below). On the ground floor was JR: Chronicles, his first major exhibition in North America. It’s an impressive show that reminded me how many of his projects I’ve seen through social media over the years. The most impressive was the new mural, The Chronicles of New York City, which is a collage of over 1,000 New Yorkers against various city backdrops. I’ve been paying more attention to public art this year, so it was good to absorb this show. JR is a talented mofo.

Next I took the elevator up to the 4th floor for Garry Winogrand: Color which featured 400 rare color photographs from his archive. Like many people, I’d seen a handful of color photographs over the years online and when I got a peak of Winogrand 1964 but this was on another level. I was surprised I enjoyed the show as much as I did. Winograndian style street photography is so pervasive these days that his photos don’t draw me in like they once did.

But I liked this show and thought these color photos demonstrated a different aspect of his vision. The mixture of presentation, there were eight projections of rotating photos, and the Kodachrome color vibes worked well in the space. Since I hadn’t seen most of these photos it felt somewhat like viewing an undiscovered stash that someone found in an attic ala Vivian Maier. I’m sure we’ll see more of this work in the future and probably a book at some point.

After Winogrand, I browsed the diverse set of works on display for Nobody Promised You Tomorrow: Art 50 Years After Stonewall. Of particular interest were Elle Perez’s black and white photos of collaborators from NYC. Learn more about Elle’s work in this Art 21 episode.

After absorbing all the art, I took a quiet, windy stroll around the Brooklyn Botanical Garden for the first time. I’m sure I’ll be back several times as it aligns with the project I’m working on about greenspaces. More on that in the future. In the meantime, here are the seven oldest bonsai trees in the world.

I’m always on the lookout for new projects, especially those that revolve around walking, transportation and urban greenspaces but open to pretty much anything. Feel free to drop me a line info@bryanformhals.com and catch me on Twitter and IG

Shannon Taggart, Seance

“The images veer from very haunting and eerie to the sort of cute snaps you’d find in your mum’s dusty, stashed-away photo album of Butlins holiday snaps from the eighties—all gaudy colours and people seeming to have a good time. Whatever your stance on all things ghostly, the book is utterly compelling: the images alone tell a thousand stories. Augmented by a beautiful use of typography and carefully considered layouts, the complete package has the feeling of both a historical document and a sociological study on a contemporary culture that most of us had very little idea about.” - elephant

As I mentioned above, I attended Shannon’s talk at Greenwood Cemetery about her new book Seance which took over 18 years to complete (Disclosure: I’ve been collaborating with her on the book launch). The photographs are brilliant, surreal and transfixing, and the book provides historical context about spiritualism and illuminates the stories and controversy around the current movement. It’s one of those epic projects where you admire the sheer perseverance and obsessiveness that it took to bring to creation.

Tim Carpenter, Christmas Day, Bucks Pond Road

“The sequencing of the photographs in Christmas Day, Bucks Pond Road is a critical part of its success. There is the very real sense that we are walking along with Carpenter – we see him look at the trees along the roadside, then look more closely at something in that area, then turn and take in the view of the farmland across the road, before moving on to another view of the dirt, and another, before turning again back to the winter trees, the weeds, and the nearby creek. The book is a deliberate exercise in progression, the flow always moving forward with a sense of measured pacing. The “distance” between page turns is never more than a few strides, a movement closer, or a look ahead to something coming up – it feels human, and personal, and mindfully present.” - Loring Knoblauch, Collector Daily

I was able to browse Tim’s book at NYABF and was impressed with how the book flowed. I think executing a project in one day, let alone one walk, in extremely difficult so it’s interesting to see how Tim executed on the concept. You can listen to Tim and his TIS Books partners on this episode of the LPV Show from 2016.

Preserving the World’s Silent Places

“There is an epidemic of extinction of quiet places on the planet,” says Hempton. Haleakala Crater in Hawaii, formerly one of the world’s quietest spots, is overrun with more than 4,000 helicopter tours a year; in a recent story in The New York Times, several naturalists in search of quiet in remote regions of New Hampshire’s White Mountains were foiled by motorcycles, buses, and wailing babies. Hempton estimates that there are now fewer than ten places in the U.S. where natural noise can be heard uninterrupted by noise pollution for longer than 15-minute intervals.

That’s from a profile of acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton in Outside Magazine which I picked up via Kottke which has a bunch of good links included in post as usual. It’s too damn noisy (the old man said shouting at sky) and predictably, it’s causing havoc on our health and the health of the planet.

Further Reading

“Adepts of this kind of strategic idleness use their ‘idle’ moments, among others, to observe life, gather inspiration, maintain perspective, sidestep nonsense and pettiness, reduce inefficiency and half-living, and conserve health and stamina for truly important tasks and problems. Idleness can amount to laziness, but it can also be the most intelligent way of working. Time is a very strange thing, and not at all linear: sometimes, the best way of using it is to waste it.” - To make laziness work for you, put some effort into it