I know this is a bit early, but can there possibly be two more appropriate photography concentric books to give away this holiday season to friends, family, employees, customers, clients, patients or partners? I’m just sayin’…
Each of these exclusive books include unique photos and insights into what makes Västra Hamnen such an inspiring place to live and work in.
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So I’ve been freelancing for about 16 years now. Our small family business has the highest possible credit rating and no bank loans or debts. Heck, we don’t even have checking account. And like all good corporate citizens, we pay our business (local and government) tax each month on time – with barely any bitching. And thanks to a really good financial consultant, our company books are well-balanced.
Earlier this fall, I had an assignment for Sweden’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs via Sweden’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York City. Scroll down a bit and you’ll see a post about that most challenging, albeit interesting gig. And with the exception of being hired by Malmös city council on a few occasions, working with the Swedish government was both gratifying and surprisingly straightforward. But like IKEA, Ericsson or any other large organization that I’ve worked with in the past, it’s key to pace yourself and adjust the volume and rhythm to suit their tune.
Anyway, it’s now been a while since I sent my invoice to the Government Offices in Stockholm – to, in effect, my government which I help finance via taxes. Optimistically, the administrator/controller responsible for payments to the state’s suppliers (like myself) will pay my invoice in an equally orderly fashion as I am expected to pay taxes. Not holding my breath, though.
What, no jet lag? Nope. Can’t remember when I felt so relieved from not having to deal with at least a week filled with sleep disorder. Considering how ridiculously noisy the hotel we stayed at was, I actually feel more rested now that we’re home again than I did during the entire week in Bangkok.
I wrote a brutally honest and scathing review about our guest experiences over on TripAdvisor about the hotel. We tried to change hotels about half way through our stay at the Shama on Sukhumvit, but management forced a severe penalty on us for departing early.
Ironically, my critique will doubtlessly cost them considerably more than what they would of earned – had we paid them to switch hotels. Their strict policy is typical for a desperate hotel in decline. The only really good thing I can say about the property is that the view from the pool was sweet albeit far from spectacular.
I shot this a couple of years ago somewhere around the north east corner of Santa Monica – a mainly residential area within the city limits where well-kept streets are lined with small to medium sized mansions. One of the residents in one of the larger homes there works in the film industry and has for years pimped out the family’s garden and stretch of sidewalk with all kinds of goblins, ghosts and ghastly creatures. I really admire that “all-in” attitude.
Some interesting facts about this auspicious celebration from the History Channel’s website:
“Evolving from the ancient Celtic holiday of Samhain, modern Halloween has become less about literal ghosts and ghouls and more about costumes and candy. The Celts used the day to mark the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter, and also believed that this transition between the seasons was a bridge to the world of the dead. Over the millennia the holiday transitioned from a somber pagan ritual to a day of merriment, costumes, parades and sweet treats for children and adults.”
Surprisingly, I’ve barely listened to any of my podcast subscriptions while in Asia. Instead, for whatever reason, I’ve reacquainted myself with oldies but goodies – like the Swiss harp virtuoso, Andreas Vollenweider.
I’m actually streaming his album “White Winds” via Apple Music as I type this. And though I’ve not listened to Andreas string plucking for probably over 20 years, his music still sounds so timelessly fresh and curiously relevant.
Yesterday, after a visit to the gym, a bagel with salmon and cappuccino breakfast at one of Sukhumvit’s two Dean & Deluca branches (a well-known New York delicatessen brand interestingly enough now owned by a Thai property development corporation), the girls and I headed to the sprawling slum area of Klong Toey’s “Jet Sip Rai”.
Nobody knows for sure how many people live in this vast shanty town near the Chao Phraya River. I’ve heard estimates of over 100k – but that number could be easily underestimated. The area’s busy streets, narrow alleys and concrete paths which criss-cross Jet-Sip-Rai, are packed with people.
Most of the area’s inhabitants live out there lives here without any opportunity for social elevation. The majority live in simple shacks most without running water, proper ventilation and with their electricity needs coming from often haphazardly high-jacked power lines.
This is where our favorite charity, Hang on Hangers started five years ago. It’s where many teenage mothers and families live. Some of which now enjoy a relatively decent living thanks to the money they earn while making hangers and jewellery for Hang on Hangers. For some of the girls that help founder, Annika Jonasson and her staff, it means their children can get proper medical care and or attend school. For others, it means that teenage mothers can get treatment for drug abuse or stop working in go-go bars or massage parlors. The money they earn isn’t going to make them rich by any measure. But it will allow them to work from home.
While Elle and Charlotte visited Ms. Wasana and her daughter Fon (bedridden since birth with severe cerebral palsy), I filmed one of the staff during the process of turning a simple hanger into something that makes Hang on Hangers so unique; their beautifully hand-made, fabric clad, designer hangers.
The group photo above is from yesterday’s visit. Here’s a link to Hang on Hangers if you feel like visiting or donating.
Writing these very words while sitting on a huge white corner sofa in an apartment hotel on Soi 2 in the Thai capital, Bangkok – the city of Angels.
It’s five in the morning and impossible to know for sure if the noise coming from Sukhumvit Road below me is generated from late night or early morning traffic. There have been a few occasions with loud and boisterous laughter to remind me that I’m in a city that is never, ever quiet.
We arrived early yesterday morning with Norwegian’s direct (and mostly smooth) flight from Copenhagen. After an unusually long and tedious drive into downtown, we checked in, unpacked, showered and then headed out for a quick lunch at one of the city’s most well-known neighborhood eateries, Suda Restaurant on Soi 14 (BTS Asoke).
Needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway, food plays an almost ridiculously important part in Thai society. If for no other reason – and there are a plethora of honorable and morally justifiable reasons to visit this great city – Bangkok has quite possibly the most restaurants of any city in the world. The width and breadth of the selections is gargantuan.
The dishes offered at Suba are as simple and straightforward as the plastic, pastel colored plates and rickety tables it is served on. That’s not to say everything we ordered wasn’t amazingly tasty. It was. A bit spicy, but still full of harmoniously balanced flavours. I’ve never eaten anything remotely as good in Sweden, in the US or anywhere else. Thai food outside of Thailand just seems, well, counterfeit. Ironic, I know.
After an intense summer and fall of lugging around and handling heavy camera gear to location shoots both near and afar, my shoulders, neck and back have been in more or less constant pain. Maybe not really constant. But certainly nagging and reoccurring enough to warrant remedy. So, to kickstart what will hopefully be a quick fix, I began the week-long visit here with a two hour “Energize Me” session at Health Land – one of the city’s enormously popular massage and treatment centers. The above shot of one of Bangkok’s few remaining canals, or khlong in Thai, is from right outside Health Land near Asoke. Highly recommend a visit there. Great staff and a pleasantly relaxing locale.
Next on my to-do-list was ordering a pair of new prescription glasses at the – at least for me – utterly in-navigable and disturbingly disorienting Emporia Complex – adjacent to the Phrom Phong skytrain station. With my printed prescription in hand, that project took only about 30 minutes to conclude and my new pair of specs should arrive at the hotel on Friday.
Finally, before heading back to the apartment, we ate dinner at another favorite; ISAO Fusion, a small, almost indiscernible Japanse restaurant tucked away between massage parlours on Soi 31. When we lived here for a few spring months in 2013, we loved returning to ISAO where food, service and ambiance enjoy a perfect balance.
So, in addition to eating several great meals, taking care of aches and pains infused by my occupation, providing our shopping addicted daughter with some new garb (from Pratunam, not Siam Paragon), we are also here to provide our friend Annika Jonasson and her staff at the Hang on Hangers project with new photos, perhaps a few videos and eventually, an updated web site shop. Looking forward to this latter part of our week here immensely.
Late Saturday afternoon, I was invited to a conference at Malmö Live to sign the Turning Torso book I produced for HSB Malmö (the premier association for cooperative housing in Sweden) which is aptly titled, Turning Torso. At least a hundred people now own a signed copy of the blue coffee table book which commemorates the amazing skyscraper’s 10th anniversary and includes interviews with several residential and commercial tenants, interesting facts about the building, insights to some of its luxurious facilities, a few pages dedicated to Mr Turning Torso, the always congenial, Jan Andersson, and of course, a wide range of interior and exterior photographs by yours truly.
NOTE: ABOVE BOOK SIGNING PHOTO CREDIT: HSB MALMÖ
Already Friday. It’s been an eclectic week, to say the least. Here’s a taste of what I’ve been working on. Monday: interior photography at Clarion Hotel & Congress Malmö Live. Tuesday: Activity photography (gym and pool) at sports center Kockum Fritid. Wednesday: Filming a field test at BJ Trucks along a highway near Helsingborg for TerraNet AB. Thursday: Post production meeting with TerraNet AB prior to editing Wednesday’s field test footage. Friday: corporate studio photography and editing of a commercial for Sjobeck AB in Ystad.
Shot the above scene (with my pocket friendly Canon Gx7) tonight whilst strolling along the waterfront here in Västra Hamnen after dinner. Inspired by recent meals in New York, I made tempura fried fish tacos with coriander spiced salsa and a garlic infused guac.
I have to admit, after two inspiring back-to-back visits to the always inspiring New York City, it’s kind of hard to get back into “everyday Malmö mode” again. The New York vibe is hard to shake off! Having said that, I did enjoy a dash of genuine cosmopolitan ambiance during dinner at Clarion Malmö Live’s “Eatery” with friends this past Friday. Must of been our friends and the hilariously funny server, Stina, whom kept us laughing, fed us good food and saved our throats from drying out.
I’m pretty sure most everyone in Sweden is anxiously anticipating the inevitably forthcoming dark and dreary season. The colorless, DDR season, as I’ve come to define it. But right now, it’s still summer-like; mostly sunny skies, hardly any wind and the air is beautifully crisp and clear. So far, the Swedish autumn has been surprisingly endurable.
My calendar for October is filling up and I’ve got at least two commercials and a demo-documentary to produce before I fly off to Asia towards the end of the month for an exciting film assignment. And sometime in between then and now, a spanking new website must be populated and launched.
Listening constantly to Sam Smith on Apple Music – which I’ve finally decided to subscribe to – after years of denying Spotify room in my musical life. I’m such an Apple junkie.
Yesterday’s event at the United Nations HQ was a huge success. I feel tremendously proud to have been part of such an accomplished team from the Swedish Mission to the U.N. A team lead by the project’s manager, Lisa Laskaridis Sarmiento and an old friend from my years up in the Swedish arctic (Riksgränsen), Ingalena “Gnydia Stang” Bengtsson. I most definitely want to mention her younger sister, Ulrika Bengtsson, who kindly recommended me for the assignment in the first place.
Sure, there were some last minute challenges and a few glitches just minutes before the first guests appeared. That’s usually the case (especially here, where so many talk the walk but can’t walk the talk). But there was almost nothing we couldn’t solve with Swedish ingenuity, a pinch of stubbornness and good ‘ol American elbow grease. As Nelson Mandela so aptly put it, It always seems impossible until it’s done.
As the evening came to a close, just two supersonic hours after it began, I was introduced to Sweden’s Prime Minister, Stefan Löfven whom shook my hand vigorously and thanked me for my contribution. A most generous gesture, indeed.
It’s been an intense week of choosing, compiling and preparing all the images for large format printing, picking film clips, animating still images, finding music and editing time lapse footage of Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) and finally, transporting it all to New York City in two gigantic hockey bags. I have to admit that I’m both thankful and relieved that this important evening about our planet’s health, went so well. As the guests arrived, they were welcomed by H.M. Queen Silvia of Sweden who stood beside one of my 2 meter tall photos from Lapland. It’s not terribly likely that I will ever be in the same room as so many high level politicians and dignitaries, including the president of Brazil and Angela Merkel, prime minister of Germany.
After a hefty, smoked salmon bagel breakfast with a few friends from Sweden in Little Italy early-ish this morning, I went for a well-needed, 5 hour walk (with about 20 kilos of camera gear) across the Williamsburg Bridge, then along the old Brooklyn Naval Yard and finally over to Chinatown via the Manhattan Bridge. From there I walked more or less straight down to the South Street Seaport, close to my hotel. I’ve got a busy schedule tomorrow before my flight back to Europe and I hope to have time to shoot some new footage for my ongoing and ever-evolving art film project about this great city.
The arctic film.