7 min read

Walking in the Woodside Dreamhouse

Trees Will Save us // The Matrix of Data // There Are 2 Types of Creativity

Walking: My long weekend walks are always productive in ways that I don’t recognize right away. I may get a thought, make a note, and then over the course of a few weeks, that idea slowly grows during the hours that I’m walking. In some ways walking and thinking are like slowly creating a sculpture or perhaps a better metaphor is how water gradually carves out a river over time. Or maybe there is no metaphor! And this is just how thinking and creativity work!

It’s been two years since I started formulating this idea for a big, epic project on walking, and now it’s starting to come clearer into view. I’ve made some detours, false starts and outright mistakes, but I’ve built that into the process, and started to learn from them.

I started from a point where walking would be the constant that I would build from and from that perspective everything has progressed as planned. My biggest blindspot was underestimating how crazy the world would become, and I suppose there’s no way to plan for that. How long will this last? I’m settling in for the long haul. Buy the ticket, take the ride.

If you want to talk walking, creativity or art, drop me a line! info@bryanformhals.com


Woodside Dreamhouse

Projects: I’ve been working on a new book from some color photographs I made a few years back. It’s called Woodside Dreamhouse. I wanted to use 35mm film and create a mirror project to my Genesee Ave series from California. I felt the urge to build upon some of the ideas I’d been working on, and felt using slide film would add an unknown aesthetic element to the project.

Another new aspect with this project was that I had 4x6 prints made and scanned those instead of the negatives. This allowed me to start editing from prints right aways which I found to be very helpful. I’ve been editing for a few years as I figure out how I want to put the project together.

These walks took me into the Woodside and Sunnyside neighborhoods of Queens frequently and after a few years I decided that’s where I wanted to move after living in Astoria. I’m working on a statement for the project and will probably print the dummy with Blurb and then go from there. I don’t know that I’ll ever try to sell copies, maybe down the line. I’ve never tried to sell any books I’ve made. I kind of want to see if they’ll hold up for 10 or more years before trying.


“There Are 2 Types of Creativity and 1 Doesn't Peak Until Your 50s”

Creativity: This is an interesting study on creative genius. Over the years there have been a lot of discussions about lists that place an emphasis on achievement by a certain age, whether it’s 30 or 40 years old. But this article demonstrates that we’re missing an entire other group that makes their breakthroughs later in life, and if you look deeply into it, that’s because of the nature of their work.

They are the experimenters that iterate on their ideas until they refine them. Over time, this process gradually leads to a creative breakthrough. I have no idea if I’ll ever make a breakthrough that will have a wide impact.

At this point, I don’t care that much! Why? Because my creative process is so deeply entwined with my existence that the benefits go far beyond cultural or monetary awards. I think the ultimate goal is to make art that moves, inspires and impacts other people, but without out that deep, existential connection to your soul, I doubt you can ever get there. Keep experimenting.


Matrix of Data

Photography: Every photograph contains a matrix of data, some of it visible, some of it hidden. What is visible to you depends on many variables. Show two people the same photograph, and they will have access to different pieces of data.

When I look at a photograph from New York City in the 1920s, the visible data might be based on photography and my experience of the city. Show the same photograph to a historian, and the visible data might reveal the significance of the location.

This is endlessly fascinating. Now, I can’t think about photography or art, without considering the matrix of data. It’s liberating to some degree, but also shows the futility and in some ways the risk, especially with photography.


Trees Will Save Us

Humans are drawn to trees by more than aesthetics. It can bring down cortisol levels in walkers, which means less stress. The effect on our brains is a subject that fascinates UK-based GP and public health expert William Bird.

“The parts of our brain we use change when we connect with nature,” he says. Even in lab-based studies, MRI scanning shows that when viewing urban scenes, blood flow to the amygdala – the “fight-or-flight” part of the brain – increases. Our brains view cities as hostile environments. Natural scenes, by contrast, light up the anterior cingulate and the insula, where empathy and altruism happen.

“In areas with more trees,” says Bird, “people get out more, they know their neighbours more, they have less anxiety and depression.” (Here in the UK, the annual mental health bill is around £70bn.) “Being less stressed,” he continues, “gives them more energy to be active”. But you can’t fob people off with an empty playing field, he says. “People won’t want to go there. We are still programmed as hunter gatherers who look for trees, biodiversity, water and safety.” - The importance of urban forests: why money really does grow on trees

Trees: Every weekend I make an effort to visit a trail. I know for certain that when I spend a few hours walking amongst the tress I feel better, and my stress levels go down. At this point, I doubt any of you reading don’t know this by now.

We need to build more greenspaces, that’s for sure, and it needs to start in areas are the most impacted, and those are generally lower-income neighborhoods. That needs to be a priority. But we also need more time!

More time to visit nature, more time to think, and wander, and take it in. We are completely missing out on so much creativity, wisdom and insight by not allowing ourselves time to think, meditate and develop new ideas. We need a 4 day work week, and at least six weeks vacation in the United States.

I predict this would lead to an explosion in creativity, productivity and entrepreneurship, exactly what the oligarchs fears.


Further Reading

There is that moment when you will realise that your own photographs can teach you something about yourself: this is when as an artist, you’re at your most vulnerable. At the same time, that’s the moment when you also realise how you have just grown as an artist and possibly as a person. It’s the most gratifying aspect of making art. - Jorg Colberg, How to Add Words to Pictures

I’m a strategist, photographer, and writer in New York City. You can email me at info@bryanformhals.com or follow me on Instagram & Twitter

Way of the Walk is my newsletter on walking, photography and creativity. Each issue, I share updates on my current walking projects as well as interesting articles and projects focusing on walking, urbanism, New York City and art.