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