#46: Daily Walks and the Beginners Mind

#46: Daily Walks and the Beginners Mind

Colberg on Gerry Johansson's Walk // the spiral walk of Park de la Distance // Sauntering with Madeline Cass

Creativity & walking: I’ve used the phrase ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ in three conversations in the last week when discussing how creatives and artists will sustain themselves after Pandemic I. It’s a turn of phrase that acts as a shortcut for “I have no idea but I’m sure we’ll think up something.” Whenever I say it, there’s always an optimistic undertone because I believe artists, creatives and makers have proven to be adept at using their unique skillsets to navigate unpredictable circumstances. Making shit up and synthesizing ideas is the essence of the job. So, they know the necessity well. Still, economic reality can be daunting.

Staying present in the current moment and focusing on what I can do to move forward each day has provided me with more creative energy the last few weeks. Focusing too much on the future when so much is uncertain just seems like a path to unbearable anxiety. I can do without.

I have focused on simplifying. The beginners mind. What can I do that has the least amount of road blocks? Daily walks. Those are mandatory. I can make photos. I can map my walk with Strava. I can pick themes to photograph on each walk. I can make notes with observations and ideas. I can make simple collages of the photos. I can repeat it each day. I can play with the elements in the format. Repeat daily.

April 18, 2020 // 10,722 steps // 3:37pm - 5:32pm // cold pandemic days // rain drops on my glasses // stranded in the middle of Queens Blvd

Photobooks: I regret that I’ve never seen a Gerry Johansson book in person. He has a healthy amount of photos on his website so you can get a good sense about his work but it’s obviously not like paging through a physical book. Even without, I still find his work has been influential on my projects. He keeps it simple. Jorg Colberg has a nice review on his latest book Meloni Meloni and touches on walking as process.

To become a good photographer thus has very little to do with actual talent. Instead, it has everything to do with the determination to come close to one’s own strengths, to one’s own vision — one’s own looking at the world: it has everything to do with working very hard towards that. And how do you work towards it? Well, you walk down the road and take pictures.

I agree with that sentiment. It’s hard work, and even if you are able to cultivate your own vision, it doesn’t get easier, and it shouldn’t. Art is about asking yourself questions and then trying to figure out a solution. Doing that is tough enough, engaging an audience even more difficult.

Back to Meloni Meloni, the idea of a walk becomes easily apparent from the pictures. It’s as if as a viewer is led by the hand through what isn’t necessarily the most remarkable place to experience what can in fact be seen if one is willing to pay attention. It really looks like good pictures are everywhere, whether it’s in the built environment, in the landscape, in every piece of botany.

Called “Park de la Distance,” from the Austria-based design firm Studio Precht, the concept guides visitors on a solitary walk around a maze-like path on parallel lanes separated by hedges. “There is something fundamental in spirals,” Chris Precht, one of the founders of Studio Precht, writes in an email. “A path to the center. A path to your inner self. And as this path is about solitude, I think this is an appropriate geometry to stroll on.” - Fast Company

Parks: One of my bucket list goals is to visit amazing parks and gardens. I don’t know how realistic it is at this point to travel to more than a few given my age and the economics of traveling but I know there are probably a few on the East Coast I can visit by train.

Sauntering is a way of walking in wild places that is not for scientific inquiry, exercise or any specific outcome except nourishment of the soul. It makes space for intimacy and the contemplation of nature. Wild spaces are quickly disappearing, and with them, human consciousness of our role within nature. We need this connection more than ever. The effects of climate change and the rise of fake news are a terrifying combination. It will be almost impossible to sustain life on earth unless we seek meaningful and passionate relationships with our surroundings.

I recently discovered the work of artist Madeline Cass when she left a nice comment about this newsletter on the Humble Arts IG post about the open call for Easy Spirit: New Photography On Walking. Then this interview on Lenscratch surfaced on Twitter and I was captivated by here ideas and process for creating her projects, which sauntering is a key ingredient. In the course of working on this newsletter, and my projects, I’ve always found walkers to be the most generous people I encounter. I think we all share an understanding that when you walk and make art, the boundaries are limitless. There’s enough for us all, and we’re happy whenever we discover others that share that perspective.

Further Reading

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

Way of the Walk is my weekly newsletter on walking, photography and creativity. Each week I share updates on my current walking projects as well as interesting photobooks and artists incorporating walking into their process. The podcast is just getting started, tune in!