Nairobi, Kenya

Nairobi

It’s been a staggering seventeen years since my last visit to Kenya. And this is my first time ever experiencing the country’s notoriously intense capital, Nairobi. I took the shot above early this morning about half an hour before traffic congests the city’s busy surface streets and highways. I would of stayed until the sun rose, but my driver insisted that we leave before its ascend or face the consequences of losing at least an hour in traffic on our way back.

We’re staying at the legendary Muthaiga Country Club for a few nights before flying south to the Masai Mara and an equally well-known fixture in the safari sphere, Governors’ Camp. There, for the second time in four years, I’ll be documenting what I’m hoping will be an an extraordinary amount of wildlife, hopefully joining the exclusive club of photographers that have captured images of the “Big Five” during a single game drive.

Malmhattan-collage

Malmhattan and the Creative Vortex

Well, the vernissage for my Malmhattan show was a huge success – on many levels. The challenges with hanging 17 huge aluminium plates were overcome thanks to Expocom’s and Clarion’s amazing expertise – and with some 100+ invited guests showing up for the event and two of my plates sold during the evening, I am happy as can be.

As much as I thrive on coming up with new ideas and concepts, if nothing comes from them, their really just intellectual exercises. And however stimulating that can be, it’s only after actually developing and then executing an idea that I get some kind of creative affirmation that my original concept was solid.

But what’s really got me excited right now – in the inevitable vacuity of Malmhattan – is all the positive feedback I’ve been receiving about the artistic path I’m now exploring.

It started with a piece called “Calatravaism” about a year ago where I’d blended roughly 30 images of the Turning Torso from various angles and lighting situations into an vastly abstract composition. Since then, and after some anxious dwelling in a creative vortex, Malmhattan has proven, at least to me, that this new abstract visual expression – which I have long yearned for but not felt audacious enough to research seriously – is where I need to be.

apple mail

TO LOVE AND HATE MAIL

As much as I hate, hate, hate all the ridiculously misguided and downright inappropriate junk that lands in my inbox every few minutes, I still prefer plain old email as my primary communication tool.

That’s not to say I don’t text or sms – I do! But for that type of “talk”, I use Apple’s often confusing, yet still reasonably useful app, Messages.

But lets get back to email – and more precisely, the default client on OS X, Mail.

See, I love Mail. Far beyond its intended use, even. Way, way, beyond, actually. Fact is, I’m writing this very post in Mail. And most of everything I’ve ever written these last five or so years were typed in an ordinary email window.

So, why is Mail my go-to app for hammering out more or less cohesive ramblings? There’s at least a dozen professional programs out there with tons and tons of super-duper features and amazing editing and formatting capabilities.

Three reasons. Three.

One.

The general interface of Mail is pretty clean – and if I close the app’s main window with all its busy mailboxes, columns, rows and icons, my writing environment instantly becomes spectacularly minimalistic.

Two.

Mac OS X has a phenomenal dictionary and thesaurus that can be accessed in just about any app and in Mail, all you have to do is highlight a word and…presto! You get a gorgeous selection of apt definitions, synonyms and antonyms.

Need a word from Wikipedia, Brittanica or the Urban Dictionary? No problem! Highlight a word, right click and boom! You’re browser immediately opens a page with Google’s slew of alternatives – waiting for you to copy and paste.

Three.

Ok, so this isn’t really a benefit of Mail’s…but the simple answer is, I just don’t like Pages, Word or any other word processor that I’ve come across (or, been forced to use). I’m sure they work just fine for most people. But I get so darn easily distracted when I’m writing and if the interface is in itself a distractor, well, the writing is inescapably going to suffer.

One day, when I get around to writing that book I’ve been thinking about since way back when, I probably won’t write it in Mail.

Or, if only to prove a point, maybe I’ll do just that!

eva-lotta-runfors-yoga

Balance

At 50+, I find myself constantly reevaluating and redefining stuff that adds balance and long-lasting value to my life. Everything else becomes, by virtue of this hardcore rational, either excessively superficial – and therefore unimportant or, even worse, detrimental to my well-being.

So, I’m repeatedly questioning my priorities – many of which were once based on the judgement of a younger self – and carried over to the older me. Dare I call this maturing process, wisdom?

Let me provide an apt example – my reassessment of food.

I’m nearing a year without meat (pork, beef, bird) and though I’d be hard-pressed to provide substantiating evidence of any tangible benefits, I definitely feel better about being more conscious of what the heck I put in my body for nourishment. I eat fish and seafood – so, a “pescetarian“, am I, for sure.

A another example is my exercise regime.

I’ve been an an off-and-on jogger for probably 30 years. And up until a few years ago, I spent at least two hours a week boxing and kicking myself sweaty at our local gym, Kockum Fritid.

As hooked as I was on the adrenaline rush from running and those intense sparring sessions with ‘ol Pete, I still get pumped and energized today – thanks to a couple of early mornings, twice or thrice a week, at the gym, lifting weights which is then complimented by a workout class or two. And as soon as it gets a little warmer, I’ll start running again.

But I’ve not quite found the right balance between what gives me the most physical and mental energy – and what doesn’t create long-lasting aches and pains in the process.

No pain, no gain. I know, I know. Somehow, I feel the answer could be yoga – in some shape or form.

Another gauging I’m preoccupied with is music.

Music is key to my ability to endure long work hours, intense projects and tedious travel. In addition to my growing podcast subscriptions, I also thoroughly enjoy listening to just about everything – with the exception of contemporary country music (which sucks so, so bad and in my ears seems only to get worse for every new song I hear).

I listen daily to an eclectic mix of jazz, trip hop, funk, rap and a few select pop acts. Not so much rock, though. And from the hard rock era of the 1970s, I more or less only listen to Zeppelin, Yes, early Genesis, some Frampton and a few others I can’t remember right now. And even if I own a few hundred gigabytes of music from the 1980s and 1990s, I find it increasingly difficult to appreciate or listen to almost anything from the glam-anthem-arena-rock genres. Think, Styx, Rush, Journey, Foreigner, everything but the first three albums of Toto, all of REO Speedwagon, most of ZZ Top’s later catalog and the same goes for bands like Aerosmith. I never got thrash, death or speed metal. Actually, most music I used to really enjoy just sound so nauseatingly predictable and regurgitated today. To think that a band like Europe can still earn a good living off music that was terrible already at its  inception, is mind-boggling to me.

Depending on what I’m up to creatively, today I mostly prefer listening to beat based music – preferably on Internet radio stations like, KCRW and Groove Salad.

Tunes by Fat Freddy’s Drop, DJ Shadow, Lemon Jelly, Thievery Corporation, Zero 7 and Massive Attack, Melody Gardot, spin more regularly via Apple Music – yeah, I’m surely one of very few Swedes not subscribing to Spotify’s music service.

Being able to ask Siri to play just about any song I can think of and have her stream it to my headphones, speakers or earbuds seconds later, is insanely convenient.

It’s Sunday evening and though I spent almost two hours at the gym earlier today, I’m now back at the gallery, working. And after writing all of the above, I’ve just now realized how little time I actually take off from working. That could just be the next big thing to reevaluate….

The above collage comes from images I shot of Eva-Lotta Runfors, an instructor of yoga and mindfulness, in the studio a few weeks ago.


Kaua’i

Another video collage for AirlineStaffRates.com composed of shots from the extraordinarily lush Hawaiian island of Kaua’i during a ten day visit this last Christmas.

Music by Joe Bagale, called, “Otis McDonald” a title which pays homage to one of my favorite indie musicians, Otis McDonald – which in turn may actually be a pseudonym.

The Race

The Race

As much as I try, I still find myself getting sucked into this year’s presidential race. As a subscriber to the digital edition of the New York Times, avoiding the crazy American primaries, is just about impossible.

It’s ironic that next week, I’m exhibiting images largely inspired by Donald Trump’s home town, New York – Manhattan, not Queens, where he’s from.

Amazingly, no one seems to ever reflect over how old the most popular candidates are. Even if Hillary’s or Donald’s tenure only lasts one term, they’d still be a commander-in-chief somewhere in their mid 70s.

And I don’t even want to think about Bernie’s age after two terms. Wonder why there are so candidates in the 40s or 50s this time around? Maybe the realization that the job isn’t all that it’s snuffed  up to be? That Congress, the Supreme Court and hordes of lobbyists and special interest groups can pretty much make the gig feel like you never should of run for office in the first place…despite the dubious joy of being commemorated with a library once you move out of the White House. Image above: Rickard B during a spinning class at Kockum Fritid.

The Verdictt

The Verdict

Every several years, I return to Sidney Lumet’s “The Verdict” – just to remind myself of what really good cinematic storytelling and excellent cinematography looks like.

Not only does Paul Newman, Charlotte Rampling and the always marvellous James Mason turn out brilliant performances – everything from the choice of film stock, masterful camera angles and lighting to the perfectly modulated sound quality, makes this a film worth benchmarking others against.

I can imagine that many have been so inspired by “The Verdict”, that they eventually decided to become lawyers.

Come to think of it, I now remember having naively high hopes for a friend, who at the time of the film’s premiere was studying law, – would become a smart-mouthed, kick-ass defense attorney knocking off one important battle after the other against teams of corporate lawyers and pompous, unjust prosecutors.

He eventually did go on to become a successful judicial practitioner, but I’m sure he’d prefer to see himself as Ed Colcannon, James Mason’s portrayal of the ruthless, cynical, senior lawyer in “The Verdict” than Paul Newman’s underdog character, the self-pitying, womanizing drunk, Frank Galvin.

Curiously, one of the extras in the final courtroom scene, which is when Paul Newman makes his poetic, closing argument, is none other than a young, Bruce Willis – whom I was hired to be stand-in for and extra during the 1986 fall season of the then extremely popular sitcom, Moonlighting.

A stand-in is someone that replaces the principle actor in scenes where only an arm, hand, leg or foot will be visible. Like opening a car door, stepping onto an escalator and so on.

So, while Bruce and Sybille (Shepard) were in their trailers reading scripts and eating catered delicacies, parts of my body were busy playing the role of David Addison’s body parts.

As fun as it initially was to work on that show (and a few others, like Cagney & Lacey, Hunter), in all honesty, nothing can possibly be more monotonous than being a peripheral cast member on a television sitcom or drama series. Twelve hour days with short spurts of activity followed by endless hours of more waiting. Only watching wet paint dry could be more tedious.

The experience did, however, offer some insight to what it’s like to work in Hollywood, something both my father and mother had done, with limited success. The commercials and demo videos I shoot are usually produced with a small, nimble team and delivered with an extremely short turnaround – as opposed to anything one can say about film production in Tinseltown.

New York

MalmHattan

About a month ago, I was invited by the good folks at Clarion Hotel & Congress Malmö Live to exhibit images within the same theme as my film project – currently on display at the hotel’s Kitchen & Table restaurant on the 25th floor – called, MalmHattan. The scope of the film and the forthcoming art show is to visually merge the two cities – both with more in common than what most people might think.  Not all images, but where it is – to me anyway – visually interesting.

So, over the last week, I’ve created a collection of collages that merge Malmö with Manhattan in what I feel has turned out to be a pretty compelling way.

I’ve lived in Malmö for close to 20 years (a little depending on how you count our previous adventures in the US, Thailand and Spain). I’ve been visiting New York relatively regularly since 1986. Just last year, I was on assignment in Gotham no less than four times. And though I’ve never actually lived in New York, it is unequivocally the most interesting city in the world.
The venue for the art show is in the hotel’s “Living Room” – a cozy, public space that connects the hotel with Malmö Live and has several wide, concrete walls and high ceilings. I’ve got a few photos of the place here.

Over the years, I’ve exhibited art in both traditional art galleries as well as in several hotels. I honestly prefer the latter over the former.  Why? Well, because galleries tend to add more exclusitivity and pretentiousness than I can relate to on a personal level. I may be many things – but I am certainly not exclusive nor pretentious. Art in any form should be inclusive.

Anyway, I’m now in the final and creatively intense stage of deciding which of my images to show – and if these final candidates need additional work before sending them via FTP to the printer on Friday. Most of my Malmhattan images are close to two meters in height and will be completely different to anything I’ve ever shown before. Sort of.

Hotel Erwin

Hotel Review

Thought I’d share one of my most recent hotel reviews which will be published in a day or two. I stay at anywhere from 20-30 different hotels on average per year, so I’ve obviously accumulated a decent amount of guest experience. On a couple of occasions, General Managers and directors of Food & Beverages have called to thank me for my insights and complement me on raising issues they were oblivious of. Not certain if my critique had any long-term impact, but their engagement is a definitely a good sign. So, without any further ado, here’s my thoughts on what I think is a really good and recommendable hotel – located just south of the Venice sign above.

The Erwin is a smallish hotel (119 rooms) in the salty, eclectic and world-famous seaside neighborhood of Venice Beach.

Let’s start on top.

The Erwin has what must be one of L.A.’s most spectacular rooftop lounges – complete with sprawling 360 degree views of the area and beyond. In fact, more or less the entire rooftop has been dedicated to ensuring hotel guests and outside visitors can suck up the SoCal sun while chilling out high above palm trees and the hustle and bustle stemming from the Venice Boardwalk below. This laid-back vibe is, of course, accompanied by carefully curated tunes and a wide range of suitable beverages from the roof’s small cocktail bar-cum-cantina.

As an avid – if not particularly good – surfer, I love the Erwin for its proximity to what could be the most consistent surf spot in L.A.; Venice’s “Breakwater”. It almost took me longer to put on my wetsuit then to walk down the street and into the waves…

Once back from a surf session, the hotel can either keep your board in guest storage, or you can just bring it up to your room (the elevator even accommodates longboards).

Guest rooms are pretty basic with functional decor typical for the region (colorful) and all the practicalities you need. Rooms facing north can expect to hear some late-night rumblings from a couple of the nearby bars. Though nothing a pair of earbuds won’t cancel out.

If you’re into the beach scene, the Erwin’s location is outstanding. Perhaps not an ideal choice for families with small children. But for parents with teens, it’s spot on. Lots of stuff to do nearby, even if you don’t hit the waves. Bike, skateboard and inline rental places are abundant as are Venice Boardwalk’s more or less memorable restaurants and cafés.

Main Street and Rose Avenue in Santa Monica are both really close by – as is Venice Beach Pier with plenty of decent eateries and great views of the shoreline. Venice Canals (famous for one of the locations in the TV show, Californication) is definitely worthy a visit.

The Erwin’s onsite restaurant is small and though their offerings are nicely presented, well-made and tasty, the selection is fairly limited. The bar, on the other hand, has a really good breadth.

I can easily recommend the Erwin for a wide range of reasons. One of the most significant, though, is the hotel’s extremely friendly staff.

I stayed for a week and sincerely enjoyed interacting with everybody. The folks working the reception were all personable and plenty helpful – often going out of their way to answer my queries and accommodate my needs for dry cleaning, surfboard maintenance and what not.

The fellows manning the valet parking (free!) were also extraordinarly service-minded. But literally everyone I met or spoke with during my entire stay had a really positive attitude – without coming across as being superficially friendly or beaming a phoney facade – as so often is the case at many other hotels.

The Erwin is a genuine gem and a really good choice when looking for a place to stay in this part of Los Angeles.

Royal Crown of Stockholm

Stockholmia in February

Excellent good weather during a couple of days in Stockholm this week. Cold, sunny and absolutely perfect weather for walking to my meetings set on three of the capital’s many picturesque islets.

As big as Stockholm is, at least when compared with Malmö, it’s surprisingly fast to get around downtown on foot. And it’s not nearly as crowded as during the more tourist-friendly season – though Liljevalch’s Spring Salon (an annual art show since 1921) was extremely busy in their temporary exhibit halls near Stockholm’s Royal Opera House.

The last time I was in town, I stayed at the palatial Grand Hotel. And because I am someone that thrives on keep life full of inspiring contrasts, this time, the wallet-friendly boutique hotel HTL earned my trust. Great location, friendly staff and a decent breakfast that almost compensated for the claustrophobically small room.