More than world class engineering and design

I love the Öresund Bridge and I’ve flown over it, floated under it and on many, many occasions, driven over it. Though this next sentence might offend a few local patriots, I’m going to be bold here and just say it: the fact that the Öresund Bridge makes it super easy to reach Kastrup International Airport is a really strong incentive to remain in Malmö.

Not only do I absolutely adore Kastrup because of all the intercontinental flights available there, it’s also a really pretty airport that seems to be well-managed and equipped with several good restaurants and cafés – as well as a couple of decent business lounges.

Looking at it with some perspective, the Öresund Bridge has undergone an interesting metamorphosis: from emblem of the vast (and arguably, long overdue) upgrade program in the region’s transportation infrastructure, to symbol of engineering excellence, borderless cooperation and, for many of the recently arriving refugees, the last hurdle before heading towards what will hopefully be a new, and much improved life.

The above image was shot in June 2016 whilst on an assignment for Skanska Öresund AB.

Västra Hamnen Swans

Västra Hamnen Swans

From tonight’s spectacular sunset swim where just after I got out of the Öresund, our local swan family paddled their way to the round pier as if to say hello.

Not sure how many swans there are in the waters surrounding our neighborhood, but each year, we seem to be home to at least one family with two adults and four or five young swans. By the way, the image was shot with the capable Canon G7X Mk I at shutter speed 160, aperture f5.0 and ISO 125 and a focal length of 24mm.


How Västra Hamnen helped cure my fear of flying

For years, decades really, I literally hated flying and rarely flew sober. The cure came one day inside a claustrophobically small cockpit way above Västra Hamnen.

On average, you’ll find me seated in a commercial jet about 25 times per year – on both midrange – to and from European destinations – and long-distance flights between the US, Africa or Asia.

Traveling has been an integral part of my life and career ever since the very first transcontinental voyage – way back in 1966 when I flew to Sweden from Los Angeles with my mother.

And though this was a long, long time ago, I was three years old at the time, some of the SAS crew from that very same flight could still be working as cabin attendants today.


Fast forward several years and I’m sitting in Boeing 747-400 which is just about to land at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport in the Philippines after a relatively short, uneventful flight from the capital of Indonesia, Jakarta.

With only a few feet before the plane’s wheels touched down, a powerful sidewind swept the gigantic aircraft off course and the designated runway on which it was supposed to land a few seconds later.

Thanks to the mindful cockpit crew and the 747’s four Rolls Royce engines, we avoided what certainly would have been a catastrophic crash and instead, ascended back into the sky at an extremely steep angle with the engines roaring at a deafening level.

Twenty or so minutes later and a fresh approach, our Garuda flight landed safely. Together with some two hundred of my noticeably relieved fellow passengers, I walked off the plane on visibly shaky legs.

Though that incident never got me to stop flying, it was quintessentially the day when my real fear of flying began. For years after, I wouldn’t board a plane sober and always made sure that I had enough booze in me to keep the reoccurring panic attacks at a manageable level.

My phobia had little to do with altitude and what would inevitably happen if the plane literally fell from the sky. Instead, it was my inability to deal with feeling so uncontrollably and uncomfortably confined in a thin metal and plastic tube without any options.

I love options.

About 6 years ago, I got in touch with a private pilot and hired him to fly me in a small, single engine propellor plane above the world-renown, sustainable district, Västra Hamnen in Malmö, Sweden. The mission was to capture a set of unique photos for a property development client and perhaps a few for a new book in my series documenting the area.

At the time, I didn’t think too much about how small the plane would be or what it would be like shooting from within a really small cockpit. All I could focus on was the amazing perspectives I’d have from around 1500 meters above ground and what lenses I should use for the assignment.

A week later, on a particularly sunny spring afternoon, I climbed into the passenger seat of the shiny white turboprop, Diamond Star DA40 at Sturup. An even fifty-fifty mix of excitement and anxiety spread throughout my body as we taxied down the runway at Malmö Airport.

Within minutes of being airborne, I not only started to relax, I also began to notice how surprisingly comfortable I was looking out from within the cockpit’s curved plexiglass windows.

In retrospect, I suppose the up-close experience of watching an experienced, albeit non-commercial pilot, manually fly a plane was a key ingredient in ridding myself of the phobia. That and perhaps coming to some kind of logical conclusion of how comparatively safe air travel really is.

Though a completely different story altogether, I did indeed cure a previous phobia using a similar methodology, namely, my fear of sharks. By cage diving near a few grand specimen in Gaansbai, South Africa, I somehow accepted how both rare and shy those fierce creatures are. So, taking the bull by the horns, as the saying goes, has seemed to work pretty good for me.

Incidentally, bulls are still on my list of animals that scare the shit out of me…

Photo of me: Petter Naef


Compulsive Obsessions in Västra Hamnen

Anybody that knows me well enough will tell you – at least off the record – that I probably suffer from what is popularly referred to as, “Obsessive Compulsive Disorder”.

I obsess about a lot of things. Always have and probably always will. And what’s weirdly interesting, at least from my somewhat blurred perspective, is that it doesn’t seem to be getting any easier to let go of my obsessions with age, either. On contraire, really.

Many years ago, when my younger brother suddenly passed away and I needed to vent and mitigate the emotional stress that ensued, over the course of three months, I spent about an hour a week talking to a respected therapist here in Malmö.

During this tough, but ultimately helpful period, I spoke to her about a wide range of topics – including my obsessive and compulsive behavior.

During one of our sessions, she asked me to describe in detail what a typical day in my life was like. As I laid out my daily routines, I found myself also explaining how utterly maniacal and über-focused I usually was whilst working on my projects – particularly those with insanely short deadlines. How I was constantly competing with myself and doing whatever it took to reach my goals and exceed both my own and my clients’ expectations. I’m sure this is a typical work ethic for all types of freelancers and consultants. That’s not to imply that everyone who is not employed has OCD…

– It’s passion, I told her. I am passionate, as a photographer, a writer or, pretty much whatever it is I’m doing. That’s why I love to work, feel that sleep is such a waste of time and ultimately, often feel burned out after completing a project.

My indulgent therapist sat there quietly for what seemed like several minutes. Finally, she looked me straight in the eyes and said bluntly:

– Joakim, you are confused. Passion is enthusiasm in reasonable moderation. What I believe you have, is a pretty serious malfunction in you life. A disorder that makes you compulsive about whatever it is your currently obsessing about.


The view from our dining room and the family lounge here in Västra Hamnen is absolutely world class. And though we’ve lived in this particular condo for more than six years, I don’t think I’ll ever grow tired of having the sea just 20 meters from our front door, the beautiful Öresund Bridge as our own spectacular backdrop and the sun setting beautifully somewhere behind Copenhagen.

I’ve interrupted many, many dinners with friends and family, run outside with my standby camera bag, just to add another mesmerizing sunset to my burgeoning collection of sunsets from Västra Hamnen.

Though most folks can’t tell or don’t care, each sundown does have its own distinct uniqueness – all depending on a multitude of factors, including weather conditions, time of year, choice of lens, etc, etc.

I often think back (not obsessively, though) about what the therapist said to me that day – now, more than a decade ago. Admittedly, I now try hard to pace myself before launching into each new project that comes to me during morning showers or, after five cups of industrial-strength java at Green.

I’ve never been much of a pill popper and my experience from folks that rely on psychotropic medication lose their edge. I’m not saying their zombies. They do seem to have an aura of light haze or fog surrounding them.

So I subsequently don’t think there’s much hope of ever purging myself completely from the grips of the obsessive compulsive disorder I’m possibly suffering from. Meditation helps. As does maintaining a healthy body and mind. And if I can keep my disorder in check and still obsess just a little about sunsets, so be it!

Turning Torso

Trump Torso vs Turning Trump

Here’s a mind game I’ve been playing for a while: if Donald J. Trump bought Turning Torso, would he call it, Trump Torso or Turning Trump?

Of course, we all know he’d change the name to extend the reach of his dubious brand all the way to lil’ Malmö, where, at least to my somewhat limited knowledge of the realty business, he currently has no properties. And after what would unavoidably be a strenuous purchasing process, then renaming the building, the Turning Torso’s facade would be outfitted with a huge vertical logo and finally, sprayed with a thin layer of shiny gold paint.

The Donald would also make a few modifications inside his new acquisition. I can easily see how an elaborate mix of faux antique chandeliers, richly ornamented chairs, tables and mirrors – mostly in neo-Baroque and Rococo styles – would replace today’s more minimalist approach in the lobby.

Each of the three elevators would receive special treatment with wall-to-wall LCD panels featuring supercuts from all of The Donald’s political speeches, segments from The Apprentice and commercials promoting other properties, you know, that bear his name.

The 53rd and 54th floors, where Sky High Meetings, Sweden’s highest conference facility resides today, would be converted into a giant, two story condo where the growing Trump family and their friends would live during visits to Scandinavia. And finally, on top of the Turning Trump or Trump Torso, a large tongue of sorts would be fitted to work as a helipad for those extremely rare occasions when Donald J. Trump and his entourage wants to arrive or depart Malmö without having to risk sharing elevator rides with ordinary folks.

Fortunately, the likelihood of one of my all-time favorite buildings being sold to Donald J. Trump is pretty slim. Not only is Malmö probably way off of his radar screen, but I feel confident that it’s only a matter of time before the Turning Torso is declared a cultural landmark – which would disallow any significant changes to the original design.

Thoughts on Donald J Trump: Where’s the Wak Up Call?

Here’s my approved comment about the presidential race in the New York Times online:
I doubt few notice societal norm shifts more than Americans residing abroad. As an expat based in Sweden, I’m most blown away these days at how befuddled my fellow Americans are with the phenomenon Donald J. Trump. And now that he’s officially the Republican party’s nominee, the level of either benumbing bewilderment or hypnotic intoxication seem to have reached planetary proportions. The situation is arguably self-inflicted, but tragic nonetheless.

Entertaining as it may be at a safe distance, make no mistake, this seismic norm shift is being broadcast in real-time everywhere. Friends and colleagues here in Sweden just don’t get it. They ask me how someone that embodies every unflattering American cliché can put roughly half the nation in such a deep trance, that they’re actually considering voting him into the Oval Office.

Seriously folks, how is it possible for us to not see past Mr. Trump’s populist, simplistic buffoonery and realize his reality distortion field is dividing the land further apart. That his ongoing polarizing campaign will likely cause even more damage to the already extraordinarily sedated political process?

Donald Trump is a chimaera, a PR savvy fake and bully with values that are shifting the norm of what is reasonable behavior when aspiring to shepherd the executive branch. It’s time to wake up, smell the giant, oozing turd we’re all about to step in and instead focus on a long-term strategy to mend the faults, bridge the gaps and brighten the future.

clouds västra hamnen

Öresund Storms – and why this photographer loves ‘em!

Being a Västra Hamnen based photographer, I have a front row seat whenever spectacular weather rolls in over our little enclave. At least when I’m home. And even when abroad somewhere, I try to keep tabs on the weather in Malmö. If for no other reason than to see if I’ve missed a magnificent storm or the arrival of a thick, mysterious, fog bank.

In light of the fact that Västra Hamnen is located where two huge bodies of water merge, the Baltic Sea (via Öresund) and the North Atlantic (via Kattegat), calling our microclimate unsteady is, well, a huge understatement. Even during the few summer months, when the sun can actually – albeit rarely – shine from a cloudless sky several days in a row, are we spared from what seems like an endless string of storm fronts and unruly weather condistions.

Personally, I love storms. Some of my most popular images, measured both commercially and in viewership, are during or just after a thunderstorm swept through the area. Fact is, I want clouds in my compositions – regardless of if I’m photographing landscapes, outdoor portraits or architecture.

Clouds not only add contrast and dimension. They also provide a great opportunity to filter and soften the harsh light of midday. And for “golden hour”, nothing beats a sliver of clouds as a component of a dramatic sunset backdrop. So, I’m looking forward to the late summer and early fall storms.


Surreal contrasts from Västra Hamnen to Venice Beach

The Pacific Ocean’s current was unusually powerful and though relatively fit, the strength in my arms just wasn’t enough to get me out of trouble this time. I’ll be the first to admit that I’d ventured out into what was literally way above my experience level. But when I looked out towards the reef that morning from the beach, it looked irresistibly surfable – with no signs of what turned out to be a dangerous current.

As the intense riptide and waves seemed to unite, both pulling me out and pushing my board sideways, closer for each wave to the reef’s razor sharp, jagged rocks, I really started panicking.

To gather strength for what felt like my final shot at escaping an inevitable and likely devastating collision, I laid my head flat against the surfboard, took a good look at how far I needed to move to be safely out of harm’s way, breathed deeply three or four times and then started paddling diagonally against the current using the tip of my board as a compass, pointed steadily towards the beach.

I’d been in Venice Beach for just a few days, filming for what will eventually become a documentary about the laid-back, southern California lifestyle that I’ve felt so, almost magnetically drawn to and creatively inspired by for as long as I can remember.

Some might argue that I’m on some kind of nostalgic voyage – a pointless mission to relive my youth’s most carefree memories. Sentimentality can be a vicious psychological toxin, there is no doubt about that. But in this case, I feel certain there is more to my motive of documenting life here than just simply nostalgia or a pathological obsession with the “good ol´ times”.

A key to my passion is doubtlessly my love of the ocean – which I’ve admittedly had a life-long affair with. Living in Malmö’s Västra Hamnen, literally by the sea, has therefor made perfect sense for over a decade. I’ve always felt that living close to the water adds a level of life quality that the practicality of urban life can’t compensate for. When the sky and sea converge at the horizon, I experience a profound vastness that in turn generates an immeasurably soothing, almost hypnotic influence – regardless of where I find myself looking at it.

Though I’ve seen the coastline from kayaks, different boats and stand up paddle boards, so far, I’ve never actually rode a wave here in Västra Hamnen. Surf-friendly waves in the shallow bay of Ribersborg are extremely rare. But who knows, a fall storm could, at least potentially, produce a few good rides and I’d love to give it a try one day. I have two boards waxed up and ready to go by our front door – not much more than 20 meters from the water.

From mid May, and usually almost every morning and evening during the summer months, I literally embrace a small sliver of the north Atlantic called, the Öresund Straits together with my neighbor and creative collaborator, the artist, Johan “Giovanni” Carlsten. Each spring, as the water slowly warms up, our swims become more and more enjoyable and we forgive and forget the long and windy winter months past.

As July is coming to an end soon, we have about another month of our almost ritualistic morning and evening swims ahead of us.

Meanwhile, back at Venice…

Exhausted and relieved, I obviously survived my dramatic surf adventure from mid June in L.A. If only just barely. Live and learn.

And for the remainder of my two week visit, I captured several hours of film clips with surfers, skateboarders and the colorful folks that make Venice Beach a uniquely eclectic and insistently interesting place to photograph and film. Hope to have time to begin editing the raw footage sometime this fall.


Reflections: Turning Torso and Vincent van Gogh

Walked past one of Västra Hamnen’s growing number of office buildings this afternoon and couldn’t help but capture the image above. Turning Torso’s abstract reflection immediately reminded me of a famous Dutch artist…

A long, long time ago, during my art school years on the island of Gotland, like many young aspiring painters, I immersed myself in the creatively brilliant yet emotionally challenged life of Vincent van Gogh.

If you ask me, the artist created most of his masterpieces in and around Arles and the old part of town can still be reconginzed in several of van Gogh’s works from that period.

I’ve been to Arles, roughly 15 years ago and remember thoroughly enjoying the visit and exploring the ancient Roman ruins and flush flower fields just outside of town.

And tomorrow, I’ll be on my way to Provence and Arles, to photograph the wild horses of Camargue – and maybe a pink flamingo or two. And to celebrate my birthday.


How to get to the very top of the Turning Torso

While the elevator pushed upwards, smoothly, but nonetheless at what felt like rocket speed, the small TV monitor above the metal door failed miserably at grabbing my attention.

As I ascended, the seemingly random numbers on the control panel flew by; 1, 4, 9. 17, 26, 32, 48 and at last, level 54.

At almost 200 meters, I had finally reached the very top of the Turning Torso. The 54th is one of two beautifully decorated conference floors where for over a decade, hundreds of celebrities, political leaders and dignitaries from all over the world have had breakfast, lunch or dinner meetings – all the while enjoying spectacular views of Malmö – and across the Öresund Strait, the Danish capital, Copenhagen.

I’ve been well-acquainted with the Turning Torso for almost 15 years now. In fact, even before the very first cement trucks, tall cranes and bulldozers had arrived at the massive construction site, I was hired to fly in a helicopter and document the amazing panoramic views that residence would appreciate, once the building was completed.

Back then, I doubt if there were many people in Malmö that could have imagined how immensely significant a landmark the Turning Torso would eventually become or the magnitude of positive international PR the project would have on both the city itself and for Sweden.

In the late 1990s, Malmö was in pretty bad shape as the ship building industry and related businesses closed down – replaced only with a fathomless void and a deep-rooted identity crisis that seemed to paralyze many.

Thanks to the Öresund Bridge, the housing expo, “Bo01” and Turning Torso, as well as an underground commuter rail system and most recently, Malmö Live, Malmö has once again risen and become relevant again – and almost unimaginably attractive as a place to establish a business, study and live.

In 2005, after about four years, the architectural splendor called the Turning Torso, designed by the much-admired, yet often controversial Spanish painter, engineer and architect, Santiago Calatrava, was finally completed. It’s now been more than ten years since the very first residents moved in.

During last year’s celebration of the decade since being completed, the Turning Torso was recognized as the winner of the prestigious “10 Year Award from the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat” (CTBUH) in Chicago.

In addition to the internationally recognized prize, I was commissioned to produce a beautiful coffee table photo book with interviews of residence, images from their homes, a few interesting facts, stories of famous visitors and several of my favorite and most popular photos of the magnificent building.

I feel lucky to live so close to the Turning Torso – we actually see it from several of our home’s windows. And with my studio and gallery being literally feet away from the skyscraper’s lavish entrance, it’s hard to not pass by without feeling humbled by its beauty and in awe of its monumental size and intriguingly complex, asymmetrical design.

Since it first opened, I’ve been fortunate to have had several dozen assignments in and even on top of the Turning Torso. I’ve shot weddings, food and products from both the 53rd and 54th floors.

And though not freely accessible for non-residents, each summer, the good folks at Sky High Meetings open up their doors and welcome several groups of visitors to take the elevator up to the 53rd or 54th, enjoy the wide-reaching views and partake in a most thoughtful presentation by Jan “Mr. Turning Torso” Andersson, a gentleman who knows the building’s fascinating history, facts and engaging anecdotes better than anyone else on the planet.

As the Turning Torso is called home by several hundred residents, the amount of visitors and dates to visit is understandably limited.

But if you call today, chances are you too will be as mesmerized and impressed as I was on that very first day when I stepped out of the elevator and onto the 54th floor.

A visit to Sweden’s tallest skyscraper is a truly memorable experience. So, to make a reservation for the summer of 2016, please call:
+46(0)40-17 45 00.

Tickets cost SEK 195
(SEK 150 for HSB members).
Pay upon arrival with all major credit cards (except AMEX).

For more information about special needs, business meetings, conferences and private gatherings, please visit: skyhighmeetings.com/en