My third post today. I can’t remember when that happened last. Whatever. Sometimes I’m so inspired and the ideas just magically flow fluidly all the way through to execution. Today was one of those rare days. I could literally have posted at least two more entries.
Anyway, my first creative endeavor this balmy Saturday was to spend some time shooting in the warm-up rally to Malmö’s annual Pride Parade. I only had about an hour as I had to visit the dreadful mall Emporia to hand in my laptop to Apple so they can replace my battery (some of the units from the same year and series have had exploding battery issues).
I usually feel a little extra emotional this time of year. If you visit the blog tomorrow, you’ll know why. But as I was walking around Malmö’s Stortorget (the big square), chatting with participants and onlookers, it struck me how fucked up we humans are and how emotionally retarded and selfish we can be.
Especially about people that live life differently – and arguably more excitingly – than the vast majority of the population does. The fact that in 2019 many still judge others by their sexual preference, gender identification or however people choose to express themselves and live their lives is just fucking outrageous.
I have so much admiration for folks within the LBGTQ community. Their suffering from decades (centuries) of physical persecution and society-wide prejudice is just as bad as the racism and fascism which still prevails (and, what’s worse, seems to be on the increase, thanks Donald!).
I’m feel confident everybody at today’s Pride felt Proud and Peppy about the event. I sure felt proud to have been a part of the warm-up.
I created this collage from collection of photos I took of model Tora Rosenkjaer a couple of years ago. I’ve been weirdly fascinated with silhouettes and have had the backgrounds of hundreds of my studio photos removed to create them. Not unlike traffic signs, I suppose it’s the straightforwardness of silhouettes that’s so appealing to me. In an alternative version of this collage, I’ve added my favorite yoga quote; “Bend, So You Don’t Break.
I made a fruit salad for me and Elle this morning after our swim in the sea. The salad made me think of Goa. And for some reason, it turns out that I had completly forgotten to add Goa to the travel section here. After three visits to the former Portuguese colony, Goa has become a recent favorite – especially thanks to the focus on yoga, which is mostly found along the southend of the coast. Goa is in India, but still far from it.
Most of the images are from around the beach village of Agonda, not far from the highly recommendable tiny resort Simrose where I stayed during my most recent visit in April. I often catch myself romanticizing about certain places, filtering out negative stuff and cherry-picking blissful memories. But I just can’t seem to remember anything bad about Goa. Surf was good, food was great, my bungalow had everything I needed in addition to a superb location with a seaview and locals were as friendly as can be. Oh, and the nature experience, both in Agonda and out in the sticks, was daunting. I’d be surprised if I don’t return to Agonda within an a year.
Sunny summer mornings in Malmö are spectacular. Got up at 06:00 am this morning, took a peek out the window and discovered that there was hardly any wind at all. Got dressed, hopped on my bike and rode out to Lilla Torg (Little Square) to photograph a bird’s eye view of the city with the early sun shining with its most flattering light. Among other projects, I’m collecting unique perspectives for a September photo exhibit themed on Malmö.
About a half an hour later, I returned home, spent an hour on the yoga mat after which I got undressed, put on my trunks, bathrobe, summer hat and walked down the promenade for a refreshing dip in the sea. That, my friends, is what I consider a fantastic way to kickstart a Wednesday in July.
“Yoga by the Sea” is an idea I’d thought about for a few years, probably when I started getting serious about yoga as a complimentary way to stay in decent shape. As it turned out, the concept of a yoga class on the giant wooden deck by Scaniabadet here in Malmö came to fruition when I introduced friends (and clients) Joanna and Rickard, the owners of the beachfront restaurant Vibes and my all-time favorite yoga instructor (my yoga modell and friend), Louise Hedberg.
The above collage is from this morning’s yoga class. Temperature was just perfect and there was very little wind. We were quite a few male participants today. And not just in my age group, either. Several young guys that’ve identified how beneficial yoga can be, despite not being nearly as explosive as a crossfit workout or physically demanding as a long run. I miss my jogs and hope to one day once again be able to go for shorter runs – if for no other reason than for the nature experience. But I am so thankful that I discovered the combination of Qigong and Yoga. Together with a weekly weight-lifting workout at our local gym had been nothing less than a blessing for my chronically aching limbs, joints and muscles. Shot the images above with my iPhone X Max S, which, if you know what you’re doing, offers reasonably good quality – at least for web publication. Hope Apple will introduce a native RAW format someday…
Yesterday, a friend from somewhere outside of San Francisco sent me a link to an old New Yorker interview with the painter Georgia O’Keeffe. Here’s the link.
I’ve been a fan of O’Keeffe’s work ever since studying at art college back in 1990. She had such a free-flowing, boundless relationship to her art and a completely uninhibited approach to composition. Georgia was once married to Alfred Stieglitz, the pioneering photographer based in Manhattan and whom practically invented the concept of “fine art photography” and also founded what was one of the first ever photo galleries. I remember being somewhat obsessed by the couple and how two such incredibly talented beings didn’t just fall in love with each other, but also, at least to a degree, found common ground to collaborate. Which up to that point in my life, I’d never remotely experienced in a relationship.
Though I have visited Santa Fe a couple of times and seen O’keeffe’s work exhibited at a local museum, I never visited her studio at Ghost Ranch up in the high desert. During my first visit in 1994 or 1995, I did however go hiking in the hills near Los Alamos – a small town about an hour northwest of Santa Fe near Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), where, during World War II, Robert Oppenheimer and other scientists created the world’s first atomic bomb.
My primary goal with that hike was to check out the caves at Bandelier National Monument – which count in the thousands – and were used by ancestral Pueblo people as dwellings. The area was also said to be a spiritual destination for many Native Americans.
In a couple of weeks, I’m heading to a completely different kind of spiritual destination, on a continent far, far away from both Malmö and Los Alamos. And when I return, I hope to spend some time back in the peaceful sanctuary of Vejbystrand, where I met the gentle horse above.
I think a lot about tourism and how it has unavoidably impacted our planet. Especially in this day and age. Because we travel so much for work, it’s certainly become a guilty pleasure. But even if it’s arguably crucial to our small company’s very existence, our travels are needless to say not as important as if we were working for UNICEF, WHO or a humanitarian NGO.
Every day of the week, several big-ass tour buses full of Chinese passengers park just a few hundred feet away from my studio. Once the driver opens the bus doors, they all eagerly file out and start taking selfies with the Turning Torso in the background. The visitors from China are likely on a short tour of Scandinavia and have flown in from Asia to Copenhagen’s Kastrup International Airport. Malmö is probably just a side trip, an excursion among many during the group’s visit to northern Europe.
When I moved to Sweden in 1978, I was amazed at how big an impact American “culture” had here. From television shows (Dallas, How the West was Won, Happy Days) and fashion (Wrangler/Levis/Lee jeans), to food (burgers, pizza, chips) and music (Toto, The Jacksons, EWF).
Not at all that I assume visitors from China make a similar reflection. But I do wonder if they are aware of how their country’s massive manufacturing industry has impacted culture here in Sweden and elsewhere.
The video above shows a compressed version of the creative process for my latest piece, The Tourist Conundrum. All of the images used (about 30) were shot during our visit to Spain a few weeks ago, starting with a young Chinese tourist I saw standing outside a small hotel as we were walking towards an unauthorized museum exhibit of street art by Banksy.
Soon time to leave Vejbystrand after a couple of relaxing weeks under unsteady skies. What started out as a heatwave a la 2018, ended in torrential rainfall and bone-chilling wind a la October. Which has actually been just fine with us. As most small business owners know, there’s always something to work on – and it certainly feel a lot easier to sit in front of a warm, glowing screen when the weather is shitty.
As usual, there’s been plenty of social activities during the fortnight – with dinners and lunches at home and away – and several visits to our new favorite seaside restaurant, Strandhugget.
No horses on the meadow this year, but plenty of cows to add to my massive archive. Charlotte’s returning soon for an exciting family reunion, but I won’t be back until August. Hope to enjoy drier, sunnier and warmer weather then.
Speaking of Africa, I’ve finally got around to sifting through and collecting my favorite captures from my most recent safari. The black and white images are from a total of 5 game drives around the Masai Mara National Rserve, which you get to after roughly an hour’s bumpy ride in a bush plane from Nairobi Wilson Airport.
Though different from the previous safari in the Okavango Delta in the Kalahari, the Mara is equally diverse, abundant with wildlife and nothing less than spectacularly beautiful. We stayed at Governor’s Camp, one of the oldest permanent safari sites in Kenya and thoroughly enjoyed the food and hospitality.
Most of the photos in the collection were shot with a 100-400mm lens (if you’re a serious photographer, a 400mm lens is a minimum focal length) mounted on a 50 megapixel Canon 5Ds. While certainly not the fastest camera in Canon’s lineup, having so many extra pixels in each frame allows for a generous amount of additional “zooming” during post.
There’s something eerie about sheep. At least I find it a little creepy when they stare you down. I’d give a pretty penny to know what’s going through their feeble minds when they stiffen up like the fella above that I met last night at about 09:00pm. Are they instinctively freezing to hopefully go unnoticed until the potentially dangerous stranger leaves their proximity? Or, are they transfixed by a creature so different in sight and smell that their brain just freezes, much like a deer on a road with a car’s headlights beaming into its eyes.
I enjoy photographing animals and I really don’t have any preferences. But I do find that most wild animals analyze my trajectory and if it’s clearly different from their location or path, they’ll be cool and just chill. Which can often give me an opportunity to get in a few shots.
So my tactic for some years now, particularly after a bush walk in Botswana with a 70-year old Ranger a few years ago, is not to approach a subject in the wild straight on, but instead to walk parallell with it and make sure it feels relatively “safe” about my intentions.
Shot this yesterday on the meadow in front of the summer house. No horses this year, but plentiful of perpetually munching cows. As I suspected, the drone was not going to scare or stress them out. In their universe, it was merely a unusually large and persistent horsefly hovering somewhere above.
Back in Vejbystrand for the first time since… February? Not sure. In any case summer’s in full bloom here now. Charlotte and I ate dinner at the village’s only real restaurant, Strandhugget (which literally translates to ashore). There are a couple of pizzerias here, even one down by the harbor next to Strandhugget. But non are driven with any palpable passion.
We both ate the kitchen’s fish casserole which is composed of salmon, cod and shrimp and served with side of creamy aioli with a noticeable bite to it. For dessert we shared a generous portion of rhubarb pie with vanilla ice cream.
It’s the first week of a 4 or 5 week long vacation for many Swedes, so despite it being a Wednesday, the restaurant was more or less jam-packed.
This seaside venue has been around for decades, well before I first visited Vejbystrand back in 1997. But this is the first time since then that I’ve been impressed with the food. The new owner(s) are clearly interested in the art of cooking and providing patrons with a pleasant dining experience. We’ll definitely be back.
Back in Malmö after a few days of great weather and interesting explorations along the south east coast of Spain. Particularly Tarifa was a very pleasant experience. Very chic. When I look through my folder structure in Lightroom (the application I use to organize and “develop” my images through), the folder within “Europe” that has the most destinations after Sweden is Spain. I must really like Spain.
And yet I have a hard time defining my feelings for the country and if I actually want to live there – again. On the one hand, I really love the climate and geography – which remind me of my native southern California. The sun, coastline, beaches, mountains and palm trees make me feel right at home. The diversity is fantastic. I also enjoy much of the Spanish cuisine. Especially the stuff on sale at local markets – like the olives above from the spectacularly beautiful Mercado Central de Atarazanas in downtown Malaga. And I find most Spaniards to be both friendly and good-natured – despite (or, thanks too) our linguistic differences. One day soon, I hope to be able to speak fluent Spanish as I once did as a child in L.A.
On the other hand, there’s a brutally shabby side to Spain that makes me feel a little uncomfortable. Not from a esthetic perspective. It’s more socieltal qualms I feel. Driving up and down the coast we saw some of the most horrendously ugly towns and villages – most of which were seemingly inspired by Sovjet era urban planning (or, rather, lack thereof). Even in the middle of Malaga, where I would think someone within the city’s administration would at least take a peek at design proposals before granting construction permits, we saw mucho samples of architectural misfits. Still, Malaga is like I wrote in an earlier post, considerably more pleasant today than just a decade ago according to what I’ve read. And yes, there were numerous areas we walked through that I could consider living in. Soho being just one.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Spain’s architectural mismatching, and why, in a country so naturally beautiful and famous for its designers as well as architectural wizardry from the likes of Gaudí, Calatrava and artists Dali and Picasso, it continues to thrive.
The conclusion I came up with is simply, corruption. Pay enough to the right folks and you get to do pretty much anything you want in Spain. That said, I’ve also come to understand from folks that do business in the country that corruption isn’t at all as blatant or upfront as it once was during the Franco era. Today, corruption is somehow more sophisticated – masked and camouflaged by an extreme bureaucracy, not too dissimilar of a pyramid scheme; the higher up you are in the bureaucratic pecking order, the bigger the feed gets. So, as long as you’re willing to grease the inner workings of permit committees, regional and local government officials, it’s fairly easy to fill a hillside or a coastal valley with an armada of hideous high-rise towers.
I’m not arguing that Spain is any more corrupt than say, France, Italy or practically any county I’ve ever visited (close to 100). It’s just more visibly obvious. Especially along Costa del Sol, around Barcelona, the suburbs of Madrid and surrounding Palma. In addition to being standalone eyesores, the landscape these concrete monstrosities inhabit and dominate, however stunning, live in the shaddows of and become so “uglified”. But the corruption/beauracracy aspect of doing business inevitebly titls the playing field in favor of those that are in the know and have the means to take advantage of it. And it’s this moral corruption that feels so hopelessly wrong and utterly undemocratic.
Maybe I’m just being snobbish and unfairly comparing more purposefully designed and economically built housing solutions to my comfy, esthetically pleasing, exotically heterogenous bubble here in Västra Hamnen. Yeah, that’s probably the case.
Shot this little snippet in the ancient city of Tarifa yesterday – just after Charlotte put on her new dress which we found at a local design shop called, Bebop in the old town.
From yesterday’s afternoon visit to friends Christian and Malin Gordin’s newly opened Bed & Breakfast Limonero in the ancient and scenic village of Gualchos – about 15 minutess above the seaside town Castel de Ferro and an hour and a half from Malaga.
Charlotte and I were impressed by both how charming Limonero is and the multi-level challenges Christian and Malin certainly have taken on by leaving careers and a comfy social life in Sweden to start fresh as BnB owners in the south of Spain. We wish them all the best and feel confident they’ll succeed.
Spending a few days in Malaga to research for what will inevitably be a richly illustrated travel story for Charlotte’s airline site ASR. I’ve only been to the airport here on my way to a video shoot at a yoga retreat in the Sierra Nevada mountain range in Andalusia.
Málaga has for a decade or so gone through an extensive makeover. We just got here yesterday, but from what I’ve seen so far, it seems a lot cleaner, greener and a less touristy than say, Barcelona and Palma. Málaga is more like a smaller version of Madrid, somehow.
We’re staying in brand new, one bedroom apartment smack in the middle of the trendy Soho neighborhood. Heading out to see the Banksy exhibit later today.
This is a short ‘n sweet launch video for my new book, aptly titled, Turning Torso and produced in collaboration with HSB Malmö. The new book is the same size as my series covering Västra Hamnen, yet has a slew of new photos from inside and outside Santiago Calatrava’s magnificent creation.
I’m obviously biased, but without Turning Torso, Malmö wouldn’t be remotely as interesting and as optimistic as it is today. The skyscraper is a beacon for greatness and an unequivocal symbol of how important it is to allow big ideas to flourish. Being commissioned to create a (second) book about the Turning Torso and thereby document an important chapter in the ongoing story about the “new” Malmö, makes me feel proud and provides me with a solid sense of purpose as an artist.
You can flip through the new book here.
Catharine Murat and her daughter Mercedes – and Vincent, her cute French bulldog – dropped by yesterday evening for a chat. We’d never met before, but Catharine was once upon a time close friends with my aunt Lillemor and to a degree, during her time living in L.A., also with my mother Ina (known by her friends as Cissi). And as if that wasn’t interesting enough, Catharine’s parents and my maternal grandparents were once close friends. This was in the 1940s up in Mellerud, Dalsland, and several years before grandfather Eskil and grandmother Agnes moved to Trollhättan. I forgot to ask, but I’ve always wondered why they moved to Trollhättan. What was the draw? Perhaps to give their four daughters an opportunity to attend better schools than what Järn and Mellerud could possibly have been able to provide at the time.
It was mostly as a sidenote, but Catharine mentioned how family history becomes increasingly interesting the older we get. I agree – at least to the extent that there isn’t too much tragedy involved. I feel that quota is filled to the brim.
Catharine’s daughter Mercedes, is a visual artist with an inspiringly unique portfolio of glass painted with noble metals and a wonderful collection of furniture art. I would love to visit her studio and galleri in the village of Valle, between Skövde och Skara. Hope that happens sometime soon. I’ve recently had a few extremely productive collaborative painting sessions with my buddy and neighbor, the artist Johan Carlsten. Suffice to say that I’ve [finally] seen the light [matured] and the apparent creative benefits of cooperating with fellow artists.
Photo credit: Charlotte Raboff
Sorry all you non-Swedish speakers/listeners. This is a conversation I had last Friday with Louise Hedberg, an outstanding yoga instructor and an overall inspiring individual. We spoke of travels, architecture, yoga and a lot of other stuff. We sat on a park bench here in Malmö with a symphony of more or less audible background sounds. Definitely worth a listen.
Here’s a digital painting I created this morning after an invigorating visit to our local gym. It’s a composition of 30 or so photos taken on the side streets and back alleys of Hyderabad, Bangkok, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
Though my main objective with visits to these remarkable places is usually to document inspiring views and vistas for travel stories, I also spend a significant amount of time photographing patterns, crusty and rusty walls and textures on doors and pavements. I then use a bunch of these to mix, mesh and compose imagery.
I am lucky insofar that I have been able to explore and channel my creativity through a wide range of mediums. Each with its own specific tools and possibilities. I don’t prefer one over the other. On contraire, I think it’s the mix of mediums that keep me curious and challenged. I work fluidly and organically, allowing for “mistakes” and “fuckups” to clear the path towards something that is hopefully interesting – or, in many cases – hopelessly meh.
Creativity is something I believe everyone possesses but few explore in-depth and even fewer can endure the preposterous irregularity of which it can be harnessed. It’s like riding on a wild beast. Once in a while, when you’re in sync, it can take you places you’ve never been or seen before. And even when it bucks and throws you off, eventually you get back on to go for yet another masochistic ride.