Chinatown
Like most mega metropolis, Bangkok packs a huge punch. Many first time visitors become so daunted and overwhelmed by the cacophony of jarring sounds, blazing heat, intense traffic and having to shar limited space with the millions of people that live, work and play here, they vow to never return again.

Over the years, I’ve come to learned how to parse the good from the bad areas and where to avoid going altogether. I’ve also learned to appreciate the plethora of interesting, non-tourist focused neighborhoods in Bangkok.

The narrow side streets and alleyways of Chinatown, where I spent some time yesterday capturing street life, textures, patterns and compositions of old automotive parts, is definitely one of my favorite hoods.

Chinatown, and particularly Soi Nana has of recent years been one of the capital’s most popular spots to hang out at. Several of the street’s old shophouses (previously mostly used as warehouses) are being cleaned up and recast as cocktail bars, gallery-cafés and boutique hostels. According to a few owners we spoke with last night, Soi Nana’s guests are primarily younger expats, the trendsetting HiSo crowd (Bangkok’s affluent high society troupe) and a few middle-aged travel junkies, like Charlotte and myself.

Easiest way to get here is via subway (MRT) to Bangkok’s Central Train Station – Hua Lamphong Station. From there it’s only a few minutes walk to Soi Nana.


Splash on the Job

Admittedly, there are a few assignments now and again when I become cognizant that working as a photographer is as fun as some folks seem to think it is all the time.

Not that I don’t still appreciate how much freedom I have compared to many other occupations – even when I have to deal with repetitive tasks that are often physically tough on the limbs and leave my eyes tired and dry.

The video above is as good an example as any. It’ll eventually be distributed online as part of larger marketing push for a relatively new hotel in Bangkok. It was shot on an iPhone 6s, 7+ and a GoPro 4 (silver).


Marcel’s Blue Gate

The idea and reasoning of Marcel Duchamp’s “readymade” art has intrigued me since I first learned about it in art school almost 30 years ago. And for the last several years, I’ve been fascinated by how much of what surrounds us – stuff that we mostly consider to be just utilitarian objects or tools, can actually offer me a level of lasting aesthetic pleasure.

Exhibit A: The design of the blue shophouse gate above provided me with an appealing pattern, the foreground and background layers offered interesting dimensionality and the chipped paint itself created an intriguing texture. It was like a beacon and I just could not resist spending some time figuring out how to photograph it.

The gate itself obviously has symbolic implications in the context of, say, protection or incarceration. But more importantly, for me anyway, is to hone in on the readymades that cross my path, define what make them so fascinating and then figure out a way to convey the composition that pulled me in to begin with.

New Galleri Västra Hamnen

Just relaunched Galleri Västra Hamnen, probably the world’s largest online galleri entirely focused on our small neighborhood and a chosen few other fine places.

I’ve been documenting Västra Hamnen for at least a decade in books, videos and still images.

What’s new with the site? I’ve finally returned to WordPress after struggling for years with Smugmug’s mostly quirky backend-admin UI. I’ve also streamlined my pricing model, added my artwork and some of the most popular videos. The overhaul and migration have been long over due…but better late than never…right?


An amazing lunch guest

This spectacular shot is from an elephant sanctuary in Botswana called Living with Elephants. It was taken by my daughter, Elle Raboff during what I consider to be one of my life’s best lunch experiences. The bull I’m hugging came up to me quite graciously mid-lunch and poked around with his big-ass trunk until I gave up and gave him some attention (the hug). Read on to understand why I chose this particular favorite to illustrate some somewhat scattered thoughts.

Last night, an American friend and I had dinner at one of our local eateries. As per usual, the evening’s conversation hovered over a wide gamut of topics – most notably norm shifts and things that have changed since we lived in the US. I’m particularly mesmerized by some of the new “normals” and how impactful yet seemingly unquestioned they are.

One solid example is how totally reasonable it is today for tens of millions of Americans to finance their lifestyle, much of which they can’t really afford, by taking on huge debts and financial obligations that put them at the very brink of personal bankruptcy. The norm shift here is plainly that it’s perfectly okay to juggle a dozen or so credit cards and/or refinance your home in order to maintain a lifestyle that a lot of folks firmly believe they’re entitled to – just by virtue of being American. That it’s like a birth right to live way beyond your means – not to mention actual needs. And I have a hard time wrapping my head around that if you question any of this, some will instinctively consider you a commie. A socialist, at the very least.

Another interesting norm shift is how it’s become perfectly fine to spend more time shopping and television watching than any other non-work or sleep related activity. The most popular pastime in the US – after watching television has to be shopping. I would bet a pretty penny that the most common family activity isn’t enjoying time together during a communal dinner, playing a board game, a park picnic, a day at the beach or going for a weekend bike ride or a hike. Instead, it’s more likely, at least in urban America, that you take two separate, oversized cars and drive a few blocks to your local mall and spend several hours and a credit institution’s money on clothes, food, shiny gadgets and other stuff. And I just read here that the average American watches close to 5 hours of TV per day. Five hours? Really? How do you fit that in to a mere 24 hour life-cycle when there’s already a plethora of addictions like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and the aforementioned shopping mall – all competing for your attention (and wallet)?

There’s so much that has changed since I left the US. Of course, not all of it’s bad. But I fret that much of the country’s population is unaware of these shifts and in such a deep comatose state, that they just don’t see where the ship is sailing and that the current captain/commadner-in-chief is really just a simple pirate out to pillage and plunder as much as he can.

So, there’s no question in my mind that the current administration doesn’t see things through the lens of what was previously considered ethically acceptable, financially viable or emotionally reasonable. Trump and his trumpians have no moral compass nor do they choose to see nuances. It’s pretty much a black and white, off and on, stop or go, win or lose value system. Your either with me or against me. There is no genuine interest in fixing what’s broken – unless, of course, it coincides with a lucrative or strategically favorable deal.

Though obviously not communicated publicly, there is no doubt in my mind that the president and his cohorts have a distinct Darwinistic approach to every single decision they make. This a fundamental strategy that more or less all politicians live by regardless of where in the world they are. But in the US, it’s become more blatant and painfully obvious than ever before.

It’s all about making deals and coming out on top and Trump is prepared to say or do whatever needs to be done or said to get there. Even if it means reversing, back-tracking and conveniently forgetting past agreements. Each deal resides in an echo-chamber and all peripheral and long-term consequences are, of course, completely ignored as they are considered irrelevant to the deal at hand.

So when the Trump Administration is now considering lifting the ban on importing stuffed elephants as hunting trophies, it’s not for any other reason than to make a deal with the lobby group that has successfully persuaded The United States Fish and Wildlife Service that, yes, it’s perfectly okay to start hunting elephants for game again. To begin with in two unamed African countries. And to make things even crazier, this deal, should it go through, is being made – with all likelihood – with the president of one of the Africa countries who is arguably even more mentally challenged than the dude with the crazy hairdo currently in our oval office.

I think you’re strange to begin with if you think shooting an elephant is fun and exciting. I don’t really understand the thrill of hunting in general and especially not killing animals for shear amusement. That’s sick however you slice it.

In closing, I think we ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Yup, we be in for some really rough tough times, Bubba. This is an era that looks to be defined by a freeforall or better yet a most deadly game of musical chairs. So the question is where are we and the planet when the music finally stops?


Beauty in the Details

As those of you that have stopped by here regularly over the years know well, I’ve had an aruguably absurd appetite for grand landscapes – irrespective of whether it’s a chaotic-mega-metropolis like Bangkok (above) or a hidden, ever-so picturesque sunset on an island in the Maldives.

Though soothing to the eye and thus easy on the brain, I’ve gotten really, really tired of looking at most of the many thousands of landscapes I’ve shot over the years. Generally speaking, landscape photography is just too easy, too unchallenging, hence too damn boring. Unless, of course, you count the physical effort and financial investment necessary to get to that perfect spot at the right time – a challenge. Which it often is in retrospect.

Aside from the wide variety of images I post here on the blog, the majority of my creative prowess is currently being poured into producing multidimensional pictorials or photographic “stories” that cover a wide-range of topics and themes. The one currently on the top section of this page is titled, “Collect Call from Lincoln” and consists of some of my favorite images from what might possibly be my favorite street, the extremely ecelectic Lincoln Boulevard in Los Angeles.

Anyway, this new phase is probably the most challenging thing I have ever pursued in my creative life. But it’s simultaneously incredibly liberating. I feel as free as when I painted with oils, acrylics, crayons, charcoal and aerosol sprays back in the 1990s.

So, now when I’m traveling or just out and about, I force myself to look at things a bit differently. I focus more on surfaces, textures, materials, shapes, layers and depth. I research, take my time and don’t worry at all about the big picture, the landscape. For now, beauty is in the details, the patterns, the patina. And soon, very soon, I’ll be in a place where a plethora or buffet of all of these newfound “ingredients” to my work are available in seemingly inexhaustible quantities. Stay tuned!


Nobis Hotel Copenhagen
So, here it is albeit in Swedish, my review of Nobis Hotel Copenhagen. The above shot is from the stairwell where a beautiful light installation hangs from the top floor downwards.
It was a short but sweet stay at one of Scandinavia’s newest design hotels. The Nobis is comfortable visually appealing and staffed by some really good folks. Interestingly the building next to where we live in Malmö was designed by the same architect that oversaw the renovations designed and decorated the Nobis Gert Wingårdh at Wingårds – one of the regions leading firms and one of my clients.

Avocadoism

Of all the hotels I’ve ever stayed at across the globe, the very first one to offer avocados as part of a breakfast buffé was yesterday at Nobis Hotel in Copenhagen. They were perfectly ripe and together with the salmon-cream cheese on toasted sourdough pastiche I had assembled, the avocado truly topped off my breakfast experience. You just can’t go wrong by serving avocados. More about this extraordinary hotel in a bit….


Yoga & Qi Gong

Now that most of the leaves have fallen and the landscape is colorless, I feel less inclined to spend time outdoors. For the past several weeks, maybe a month and a half at the most, I’ve been getting up super early. Often at 05:00 a.m. But instead of stumbling off to Kockum Fritid, our local gym to lift weights for an hour or going for a 10k run, as I’ve been doing for a few years, I instead put myself through a 30 minutes hybridized routine based on my rudimentary knowledge of Yoga and Qi Gong. Do I break a sweat? Barely. But it’s definitely strenuous and irrefutably gets my sleepy body warmed up.

Mentally, I now enjoy the exact same euphoric state of mind as if I’d been jogging or pumping iron, sans the pains and aches those routines consequentially have as by-products.

At Kockum Fritid, I regularly attend Yoga classes and once a week, I have a private teacher at HTA for my Qi Gong training. The more knowledgeable I get about low-impact exercise, the more comfortable I feel about applying what I learn to my morning exercise regimen.

As hard as it at times is to get my relatively stiff body to bend and twist that the movements, poses and stances demand, the learning experience is absolutely terrific. Mentally, I can’t think of a better way to kickstart the day right now. And I’m certainly improving my physical elasticity – although the progress is incontrovertibly incremental. But that’s to be expected.


November Sun

Filmed during yesterday’s amazing weather. Mostly shot on my iPhone 7+ with a little stabilization in post.


Elle’s 17th

Elle Ingrid Agnes Raboff was born 17 years ago today at 11:05 a.m. right here in Malmö. The image above is a frame grab from a video I shot during our daughter’s very first hours. We had left the apartment for the hospital (after securing the taxi driver new without a doubt where we needed to go) the night before at around 02:00 a.m. and waited patiently until our daughter decided the time was right to leave the comfort zone of her mother’s tummy.

As a father, you obviously don’t get to experience the physical process of giving birth. Which arguably might be just as well given most men’s intolerance to the level of pain most mothers endure without much fuss. That said, I don’t think I have ever been or will ever be more present and mindful as when the miracle we call Elle entered our lives on this auspicious day, 17 years ago.


Vincent’s Sunflowers

If you’ve known me for at least three decades, you’ll remember that during my hardcore painter years in Göteborg, I grew dozens of tall sunflowers on my narrow balcony.

It was really spectacular to sit at the small blue wooden table I had out there and be completely enwreathed by all those towering yellow flowers at the pinnacle of their bloom.

I visited the field above on my birthday a few years ago. It’s just outside Arles in Provence and as I was photographing my favorit flower, it struck me that I might actually be walking on the very same ground as a certain troubled dutch painter had circa 130 years ago.


The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek

A few hours before sunrise, I hired a cab in Phnom Penh to take me to one of the memorial grave site where victims of the Cambodian Khmer Rouge lay. I had seen the movie “The Killing Fields” many years before, and felt prompted while in the capital to visit the site and at least try and understand the horrific brutality and slaughter that was inflicted on so unfathomably many innocent victims, including some 2 million innocent women, children and men.

We don’t really celebrate Halloween here, but today is called “All Saints Day” and as part of an age-old Swedish tradition, people light candles en masse, mostly on graveyards.


Flamingos a la Camargue

Just by virtue of how their anatomy and color scheme, flamingos are certainly one the most extravagant looking creatures on our planet.

Whoever or whatever designed them must of had a sense of humor. I’m not saying that flamingos are comedic looking. But they do almost have the look of a caricature or a cliché. Looks and colors apart, from an evolutionarily perspective flamingos seem to be perfected for their specific ecology.

I captured this particular specimen, whom belonged to a contingent of hundreds of flamingos, in the Camargue near Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer and Arles in Provence, France.


Light Show on Turning Torso

The European Song Contest is an extremely well-packaged spectacle where questionaable talents get to “strut their stuff” for millions of beguiled viewers across Europe and elsewhere.

It’s like a talent show on steroids with one elaborate number after the other until finally, one of the least amateurish songs gets voted the winner.

On May 9th 2013, as part of the celebration of Malmö hosting the event, a beautiful and elaborate light show was projected directly on Turning Torso’s facade.

As I don’t listen to ESC music as a genre (unless it’s one of the few really good tunes from the 1970s), I instead enjoyed the entire evening walking around and  documenting our neighborhood’s amazing skyscraper being beamed with colorful patterns.


Ghost Town: Bodie

Originally, I had some pretty ambitious plans for this year’s Halloween. But for a variety of reasons, they didn’t materialize. Ce la vie. I did buy a pumpkin.

Somewhat fitting is therefore this photo from the old abandoned mining settlement, Bodie – likely the most popular ghost town in the United States. I was particularly fascinated by this classroom and the cracked globe. The patina is beautiful. Nature has reclaimed a lot of the town, but it’s still well worth a visit. Especially if you, like me, nerd out on weathered wood, rusty steel and more or less anything not made of plastic.

Bodie’s located in the Bodie Hills east of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in Mono County, California, not far from Lake Tahoe. I was there with fellow photographer David P about 6 years ago on a whirlwind road trip that went from L.A. through Death Valley, Mono Lake, Bodie, Yosemite, San Francisco and then back to L.A. along the scenic Pacific Coast Highway. If I remember correctly, the trip took about 72 hours and at one critical point, we were going to be heavily fined for speeding – if the Highway Patrol officer that stopped us hadn’t received a dispatch call that demanded he promptly scadoodle – and let us off the hook.


View of Göteborg

Here’s the (Leica’s) view from my hotel tonight. It’s an attic room and possibly the most asymmetric I’ve ever stayed in. The room has really tiny windows making it feel just a little claustrophobic. But the great view is a reasonable trade-off.

I’ve always had mixed feelings about Göteborg. I feel at home here but I’m dubious about ever moving back. Folks are spontaneously friendly than anywhere else in the country. And I’d argue that the country’s most positive mindset will be found right here. In all, I lived in Göteborg for about 15 years, so I am somewhat of an insider and probably still know my way around here better than I do in Malmö. Yet the city has always felt stagnate somehow. And it hasn’t gotten any better since we moved.

Sure, there are plenty of new stores, cafés, restaurants and hotels, a few minor infrastructural changes and a couple of neighborhoods that have gone through gentrification (Gårda, for one). But that’s pretty much it.

Göteborg is suffering from an unhealthy level of complacency. And to make matters worse, nobody cares.

I suppose my perspective is slanted, since Malmö has seen so much positive change since we moved there twenty years ago. To a degree, even the notoriously pessimistic mindset of Malmöites has changed for the better and there’s clearly a more positive vibe in Malmö today. Which in part probably has to do with the city’s younger generation being more open-minded and extemporaneously outgoing – as well as an influx of companies and folks from other Swedish cities and countries relocating to Malmö.

There’s a tangible pioneering spirit in Malmö that’s really wonderful.

Not sure if I would ever consider moving back to Göteborg. If given the opportunity to live as close to the ocean as we do in Malmö, then maybe. Got to live by the sea, ya know.


In Gbg – quenching the thirst

I’m in Göteborg for a quickie. Took the fast but surprisingly rickety train up and after arriving – and instead of checking into the hotel – I instead walked briskly in the nippy but sunny Sunday afternoon weather to the city’s only photography museum, Hasselblad Center at the very top end of Gothenburg’s famous promenade, “Avenyn”. If for no other reason than to reaffirm the medium’s importance and perhaps to try to quench my seemingly insatiable thirst for inspiration. The shot above was taken with my iPhone, arguably a more precise photographic reproduction tool and certainly a more versatile camera.

Tomorrow morning, I’m visiting a potential supplier to check out their facilities, how they work and if what they have to offer will add value to my workflow and ultimately how my art is presented to clients.


In the Waves

Do Avocados Feel Pain?

I’ve never been so mindful as right now when it comes to what I eat.  It’s actually quite interesting to discern and analyze what you put in your body.

About two years ago, I stopped eating beef, pork, poultry and anything on land that walked, flew, slithered or crawled. The transition wasn’t difficult at all and only occasionally – mostly when travelling abroad – do I miss sinking my teeth into a juicy beef burger, sucking on smoked baby back ribs, chewing on bbq pulled pork or stuffing my mouth with half a dozen salty strips of honey crisp bacon. None of the above can be bought at any restaurant I know of in Sweden. Well, at least not in Malmö. So, I’m not often tempted here.

I do eat all kinds of seafood and still can’t fathom how I would ever stop eating raw fish, tuna or any other kind of sushi. Not to mention crab and lobster (which I don’t eat more than once or twice a year to begin with). That said, when I took the shot above, I felt some kind of guilt. Maybe not so much while shooting the lobster, but definitely when we gathered round the table that evening to eat it and all the other shellfish I had photographed for an art project that afternoon.
Guilt can be such a powerful thing and I sincerely dread the day when some Nobel Prize winning researcher discovers that avocados can actually feel pain…

 


Colors of October

Shot during the week here in Västra Hamnen mostly on an iPhone 7+ and a few times using a iPhone 6s with DJI’s Osmo Mobile gimbal stabilizer.


Autumn fashion shoot

Yesterday, I had a short fashion shoot for Pello Bello with my favorite model Tora in one of my favorite places here in Västra Hamnen, the small park with alleys of trees adjacent to Ribersborg Beach.

Now, what made the gig so unique and therefore noteworthy (blog worthy) is that I shot it entirely with the Leica Q. Man, the vibrancy coming out of that camera is astonishing. Very little color correction needed. Only a very few of the motion frames demanded a tad of High Pass sharpening. Most images were shot at 1/30s, f/2.8 and ISO 100.

Just as we finished yesterday’s shoot, it started pouring again. Like the summer, the autumn of 2017 will likely be remembered for its immense precipitation and downright dreary weather. In fact, the whole year seems to have been rainy with only a negligible amount of consecutive days with warm temperatures and sunshine. Which clearly feels like we’ve got some really bad karma going on here in southern Scandinavia… Or, at the very least we’re being meteorologically punished by whoever’s in charge. Especially when you consider how many months we have ahead of us with the usual DDR-esque winter weather.

On a lighter, more positive note, my morning Yoga routine and thrice weekly yoga class is certainly keeping me in shape. And recently, I’ve begun a journey into the world of Qi Gong. After so many years of running, working out in the gym and all kinds of group exercise classes, it feels really good to have found a new, less complicated way to create balance between body and mind. Un-complicating life is a mantra definitely worth pursuing.


MJ’S – Malmö’s Boutique Hotel

With at least a half dozen or so towering conference and business hotels having been established over the last few years, nobody can have missed Malmö’s ongoing hotel boom. But the latest addition to the city is something completely different. MJ’S opened last April and is not only the city’s only real boutique hotel. It’s also one of Skåne’s absolutely coolest hotspots. I stayed there last night and ate a most sumpteous meal as part of a recurring gig for my wife Charlotte’s popular Swedish hotel site, Hotell Addict. All shots taken handheld with the increasingly versatile Leica Q at an amazing 1/30s and ISO 1600. Minimal post work – just a few notches of noise reduction in LR/CC. I’m blown away by this camera.


Unveiled: Art at Kockum Fritid

Yesterday at our local sports center, Kockum Fritid, my latest art project was unveiled: five unique pieces printed on acrylic with motifs inspired by physical activities: Hockey/Skating, Squash/Badminton, Gym/Weightlifting, Group Classes and Swimming. The project was commissioned by Kockum Fritid and each piece was created from 30-50 single photographs from several sessions spread over a few years. View the collection here.


Smoothiness

Truth be told, nothing symbolizes my current life quest as much as the morning smoothies I assemble for the family. Much of the ingrediens I use have documented anti-inflammatory properties with ensuing health benefits. Not that each shake magically adds years to our lives, but over time, I am absolutely convinced that they can help decelerate environmentally and/or genetically provoked virulent processes.

On a social level, the recipe isn’t as easy to put together. Preemptively sieving projects and collaborations with high odds of being futile, as opposed to fertile – or, even deleterious, is still something I need to work on. From time to time, my penchant for creativity still camouflages – even effectively hides – the self-evident from me. And the unavoidable echo-chamber that derives from the fercency does the rest…until…KA-BOOM!

Back to the smoothie.

Here’s what went into this morning’s spontaneous amalgamation:
Cinnamon, Ginger, Turmeric, Beetroot, Coconut, Spinach, Coconut flakes, Sunflower seeds, Vanilla, Banana, Almonds, Needless to say, all ingrediens were organic. Much of it purchased at and shipped from Amazon UK.