You have to have at least a basic understanding of Swedish to fully appreciate this fine product demonstration. I’ve actually ordered one from Amazon (UK). The gadget, not the presenter.
Back in the countryside for a few weeks. While here, I’ll be casually working on one of my ongoing projects; documenting the ancient fishing village of Stora Hult in Vejbystrand.
First mentioned in writing back in 1524, Stora Hult is one many typical rural villages in southern Sweden where the sea and farmland converge in the most charming, picturesque way. I really love the unpretentious atmosphere and have been photographing and filming here for at least a decade – though much more coherently/cohesively in recent memory.
Even though only at best vaguely acquainted, folks out and about in Stora Hult tend to spontaneously greet each other with smiles and often times, a casual wave. I’ve experienced and enjoyed the same small town equable, approachable attitude in many other places – both in Sweden and elsewhere. And we actually enjoy a little of this in the increasingly eclectic Västra Hamnen, Malmö. Sometimes, when in the mood, I’ll even provoke passersby to react to my hellos and waves. But to be crass, in return, I’m usally only rewarded with a forced acknowledgment followed by a pinch of suspicion. As an American, I really feel contempt for people that aren’t generous with their smiles or, even worse, when they look at me as if I was either a deadly contagion or out to mug them. It’s certainly gotten better over the years, but even after living here for so long, I still find it hard to deal with the level of introversion and reservedness. It’s just so unnatural and unfriendly. As if the climate didn’t make it cold enough.
Vejbystrand is home to about 3000 permanent residents and probably as many holiday visitors that enjoy a week or two here during July and August. There’s a really nice library in “Downtown”, a small grocery store, a florist, hairdresser, couple of restaurants and not much more. Which is fine, really. I think narrowing down the choices is a good thing when you’re on a break from urban life.
Fortunately, as of last year, there is decently fast Internet speed to be enjoyed. While here in the relaxing countryside, it’s still good to keep connected with the world outside of Stora Hult.
Just one of many great tunes by the age defying, 75 year old Paul Simon who has yet another hit album, “Stranger to Stranger” under his belt. I’ve listened to Mr. Simon for as long as I can remember. And it’s so inspiring to listen to his intricately layered lyrical commentary on a wide range of relevant social topics. On this, what could be his very last studio album, the tunes are built upon gorgeous rhythms, feet stomping and hip swaying beats as well as beautiful, “Graceland” quality arrangements – all created in collaboration with, Cristiano Crisci, aka, Clap! Clap!, an Italian jazz musician, producer and DJ. Can’t recommend the album enough. Listen to some samples of it here.
After visiting Iceland in April where the hotel’s restaurant had a 4 meter long photo of a fish hanging on a wall, a photography project started to take shape – about fish in general and seafood in particular. As far as I can remember, I’ve always enjoyed eating seafood – especially shrimp sandwiches – but after listening to this podcast, I may have to reconsider…
Anyway, about a month ago, I called Malmö’s most well-known fish and seafood restaurant to see if they could supply me with a few choice, specimen – preferably with the highest possible visual quality – for a project I was considering.
It took about a week for them to order all of what I needed and as soon as I got back to the studio with the chilled crab, lobster, crayfish and shrimp (and a few other critters that didn’t photograph so well), I began shooting them against both white and black backgrounds.
My seafood collection has now been printed on 850 x 1500 mm dibond (aluminium plates) and are currently on display at Galleri Västra Hamnen – together with a shrimp nigiri that I shot during a previous project.
What fascinates me most about these creatures, is how alien they look up close. Foreign and prehistoric, somehow. But also sculptural and un-organic – almost mechanical. That said, they tasted absolutely fabulous! I don’t get to eat my studio subjects that often.
Back again after an intense but riveting, two week “expedition” that took me to unchartered – or, at least forgotten – places. Especially during the first week. I traveled alone and incognito.
My primary objective was to readjust/realign my life a bit. Acclimatizing to slo-mo from my usual, high paced work cadence – and all related consequences – took several days. I mean, not doing so much took time getting used to.
A part of my journey was to explore if my current eating regimen could be improved or, at least tweaked. This went surprisingly easy and so, during 14 days, I ate nothing but raw, organic, vegetarian food. No bread, no pasta or much refined stuff, whatsoever.
To minimize my caffeine intake, I drank only one cup of coffee a day and then only with unsweetened coconut milk served at a local café where I eventually only had to show up at the counter for the barista to reconginze me and begin preparing my coffee. I also stayed completely away from all kinds of alcohol and other widely/wildly available intoxicants.
Most of my days started at 05:00 with 30 minutes of meditation, followed by a few simple Qiqong exercises. After putting on my wetsuit, I walked down to the ocean to surf for an hour or two. During the rest of the day, I went on long walks, often 10-12 km without listening to music or podcasts.
Although almost immediately affected in a positive way from eating super-healthy food and oxygenizing my thoughts during many hours of outdoor exercise, defining, on the one hand, how life has been and then coming up with a strategy for how I want it to be, took the better part of my first week.
I devoted a ton of time to analyzing, taking inventory and identifying “cause and effect” of my actions and their consequences – writing down thoughts and verbally concretizing them. I became equally passionate with this investigation as I am whilst working on just about any of my photography projects.
I realized after a few days, that if I could only zoom out a bit, I’d likely be able to get a whole new perspective on my life and be able to see connections and intersections that are just to hard to discern when you’re deeply immersed in everyday living.
With my new, unique viewing distance, I started to see context, relationships and the repercussions of various recent events. I am deliberately vague here, but those who have journeyed into the strange yet fascinating territory of self-analysis, will surely understand what I mean and where I’m coming from.
A huge part of my mantra before leaving two weeks ago, was to keep my expectations reasonable. Having said that, I felt sure that just by virtue of the vast geographical distance and change of daily routines, I would at least enjoy favorable circumstances in which to wind down.
Deep down though, I hoped anyway, perhaps naively, that the break would also provide a new and more mindful way to look at how to live my life.
After the second or third day of surfing, I sat on my board early in the morning, waiting for the perfect wave. For whatever reason, at that very moment, this absolutely spot on metaphor emerged; the importance of identifying the right wave to pursue for the best possible ride.
I have a decent success rate these days, but still bet a little too often on the wrong wave. Which means I’m way too tired once the perfect set arrives.
Perhaps too obvious or even corny, but I found this to be a profoundly interesting parallel – one that could easily be applied to much in my life. So enthused am I about my creative life and creativity in general, that I often allow it to wipe me out.
Just as I try to become a better surfer by critically studying the quality of waves, so must I also analyze my many creative projects, both those I am commissioned and the ones I come up with and engage in with zeal and frenzy. Only by performing some kind of due diligence and concentrating on fewer but more inspiring – and therefore creatively developing – projects will I be able to take advantage of the daily surge of energy I generate in a more favorable way.
Less is more, as the cliché goes.
During the second week came further reflections and observations, though now more freely flowing – as meteors, almost.
Most significantly, I arrived at this tremendously profound insight: that for as many years as I can remember, I’ve put an extreme amount of pressure on myself. Pressure mostly based on proving my worth through performance. It’s like an endless olympic game where I participate in several analogous – but unsynchronized events. So entangled, embedded and engaged do I become, that I forget what’s really important; life beyond the camera, the monitor and the deadline.
I brought a minimum of stuff with me and just a few small cameras with me on the trip and I can’t remember taking a single still with any of them. This too took some time to get used to. To not only frame a scene but to then also let it go. So liberating.
Moving about, often aimlessly, almost drifting – without feeling the weight of a clunky, hulking camera bag that indirectly chose my route or mode of travel, was freedom far beyond my ability to describe it.
Not to mention how easy it was to stroll through busy airports and in and out of cramped airplane doors and cabin rows – without having much more than my smartphone, boarding pass and passport in my pocket.
It took until the last 3-4 days of the “retreat” before my daily routine of meditation, practicing Qigong and my strict detox diet began to create this wonderful bubble of harmony that encapsulated both body and soul. Aside from a few short conversations with some locals, a lunch with a family friend and a couple of good chats with my cousin Laura, I was mostly in silent mode.
Way beyond my expectations, the trip exposed several valuable insights – most noteworthy was a reminder of the importance to have balance in life. I feel now that I have a sensible “action plan” to keep focused on the right kind of waves.
In a few days it’s off to Vejbystrand, a small fishing village along Bjärehalvön along the southwest coast of Sweden. There, among horses, cows, seals and some of Sweden’s most beautiful landscapes, the expedition continues …
Photo: Fredrik Jönsson (from Surf Safari 2015)
Tillbaka igen efter en intensiv men intressant “expedition” som varade i två veckor – varav första var klart tuffast.
Att vänja sig av med mitt normalt höga arbetstempo – och alla konsekvenser som hör till att jobba kanske lite för mycket – tog faktiskt flera dagar. Kände mig både stirrig och hade svårt att landa i att inte göra så mycket.
Lättare gick det, lite överraskande, med maten. Under 14 dagar åt jag inte något annat än rå, organisk, vegetarisk kost. Inget bröd, ingen pasta eller annan raffinerad föda. Har heller inte hällt i mig mer än en enda kopp kaffe om dagen. Den drack jag på morgonen tillsammans med osötad kokosmjölk på ett lokalt kafé. Jag har också helt avstått från alla former av alkohol och andra sätt att berusa mig på.
Dom flesta av dagarna började med uppstigning klockan 05:00 och sedan 30 minuter meditation följt av ett par enklare Qiqong-övningar. Därefter trädde jag på mig våtdräkten och knallade ner till havet för att surfa en timme eller två.
Även om min mentala hälsa så klart påverkats positivt av ovan träningsprogram och kosthållning, pågick den stora tungviktsmatchen mellan å ena sidan hur det har varit och hur jag vill att det skall bli, i helt andra sammanhang och situationer.
Dom tuffaste ronderna gick jag igenom under första veckan där nästan all vaken tid ägnades åt att analysera, inventera och identifiera orsak och verkan. Efter några dagar, började jag också skriva ned och verbalt konkretisera mina tankar och insikter. Jag zoomade helt enkelt ut en bra bit till det att jag hade någon slags satellitperspektiv.
Med mitt nya, unika betraktningsavstånd, kunde jag lättare se sammanhang, relationer och olika händelseförlopp. Jag är medvetet vag här, men dom som gjort en liknade upptäcktsresa/självanalys, förstår säkert hur jag menar.
Jag försökte verkligen ha rimligt ställda förväntningar innan jag reste iväg för två veckor sedan. Samtidigt kände jag på mig att bara den geografiska distansen och dom brutna rutinerna skulle skapa goda förutsättningar för att åtminstone få välbehövlig fysisk och mental vila. Innerst inne hoppades jag ändå, kanske lite naivt, att brytningen också skulle skapa grogrund för ett delvis nytt sätt att se på hur jag lever.
Efter andra eller tredje surfdagen, satt jag tidigt på morgonen och guppade på brädan och väntade ut den perfekta vågen. Det var någon gång under just den här stunden som det dök upp en alldeles klockren metafor; att i god tid identifiera vilken våg jag skall satsa på – och inte chansa på en som ändå inte har bärighet att lyfta och föra mig framåt – är bland det svåraste med surfningen.
Jag lyckas allt oftare, men fortfarande satsar jag lite för ofta på fel våg. Då far jag ibland runt i vågens eftermäle som en trasa i en våldsamt skakande, gigantisk tvättmaskin och måste sedan kämpa med precis allt jag har för att ta mig tillbaka ut till revet igen. Vilket i och för sig ger bra träning och erfarenhet, men ökar också risken att jag blir för trött för att kunna ge järnet när den optimala vågen – som kan ge mig en lång, härlig tur in mot stranden – dyker upp.
Det var just häri som det låg något mycket intressant och djuplodande – en parallell som kunde appliceras på min egen livssituation.
På samma sätt som jag försöker bli en bättre surfare genom att kritiskt granska vågornas kvalité, måste jag också bli väsentligt mycket bättre på att analysera mina projekt, både dom jag erhåller som uppdrag och dom jag själv skapar och sedan kastar mig över med stort iver och frenesi. Genom att satsa på färre men mer inspirerande – och därmed utvecklande projekt – kommer jag att kunna plöja ner en större mängd kreativitet och samtidigt utnyttja dygnets energiflöde på ett gynnsammare vis.
Less is more, som klyschan går.
Under andra veckan kom ytterligare funderingar och iakttagelser, fast nu mer fritt farande – som meteorer, nästan. Framförallt kom jag fram till en för mig kolossalt genomgripande insikt: att jag under många år satt extremt hög press på mig själv. Jag är inte längre så road av att tävla med andra. Men med mig själv pågår en ständig olympiad där jag deltar i flera parallella – men fullständigt osynkroniserade – tävlingsgrenar.
Detta är för mig en i allra högsta grad signifikant insikt – en som jag tror många kreativa delar med mig.
Den krassa kontentan är jag måste lägga band på min vilja att hela tiden tävla med mig själv om att leverera – till förmån för det som faktiskt pågår utanför min lite snäva, kreativa värld: livet.
På resan tog jag inte med mig mer än ett par småkameror och jag kan inte minnas att jag tog någon seriös stillbild med någon av dom överhuvudtaget.
Det var hur jobbigt som helst i början – men ganska snart väldigt befriande. Bara det att jag kunde förflytta mig ledigt och planlöst – vind för våg – utan att känna hur tyngden från en stor kameraväska indirekt valde färdväg eller färdsätt åt mig.
Och att vistas på stökiga flygplatser och in och ut ur trånga flygplansdörrar och gångar – utan att ha mycket mer än sin mobiltelefon, boardingkort och pass i fickan – ja, det var nästan overkligt.
Det tog fram till dom sista 3-4 dagarna innan surfningen, meditationen, Qigong-övningarna och min strikta detox-diet började skapa en slags holistisk harmoni i kropp och själ. Långt över mina förväntningar, skapade resan förutsättningar för flera värdefulla insikter – framförallt i hur viktigt det är med balans i livet. Och jag har nu en vettig “action plan” för att hålla mig till rätt slags våg.
Om några dagar bär det av till Sjömantorp i fiskebyn Vejbystrand vid havet utmed Bjärehalvön. Där, bland hästar, kor, sälar och nordvästra Skånes vackraste landskap, fortsätter expeditionen…
Foto: Fredrik Jönsson (från Surf Safari 2015)
Gone surfing. Literally. Metaphorically, too. Not bringing much. No other computer than my phone. No other camera than what fits in the palm of my hand. No agenda aside from what might be the mother of all agendas; the search for mojo. Back in a couple of weeks.
In Sweden the “hen” debate is still raging on. I don’t get it. It’s a un-topic in my world. The only really interesting difference between men and women – and everything in-between – is purely physical. The emotional divergancies are there and that’s great. And as a dude, I’ve come to realize how much more in touch with their feelings gals are. In a evolutionary sense, woman are millennia ahead of most men.
We’re human and by virtue of that commonality, we should treat each other equally regardless of race, gender, physicality or sexual preferences. That men make more money than woman doing the same job is just another expression of oppression based on nothing else than a difference in sexuality. Same goes for all kinds of other discriminatory stigma still prevailing in our society. It seems as if the “Neanderthalian” worldview is still alive and kicking.
The slideshow, “Femininity” viewable under “Projects”, is a homage to the many beautiful women I have been fortunate enough to have photographed over the years. I would of really loved to have added my own daughter to this collection – she’s strong, smart and beautiful – and web shy.
I’m pretty much an absentee employee of my own company these days. Still busy, just not from my ordinary workstation. With this amazing summer weather and an identical Mac editing system at home, I just don’t see the point of working in my new, but more or less windowless studio right now. So, while Charlotte is busy with her projects at our gallery, Galleri Västra Hamnen, the adjacent studio is empty and I’m just steps away from a refreshing swim in the ocean right outside our front door.
Back in Malmö for a short spell. Time enough to get back on track with regular visits to the gym, a run, a morning dip in the Öresund but also a couple of new personal projects and commercial assignments.
A chef friend of mine has a bit of the, “Imelda Marcos Syndrome”. She has what may be an uncontrollable addiction to impossibly high heeled shoes. I find this fascinating and asked her to borrow a few pairs from her vast collection and then convinced another friend to model in them for me. Not exactly sure where this project is heading, but there’s something here, I’m sure.
I’ve enjoyed yet another primo Italian experience. Especially at base camp – in the Cinque Terre village of Monterosso, where the locals are super friendly, the food is great and it’s not too crowded. If you visit Monterosso, don’t miss the family owned Miky, one of the top ten Italian restaurants I’ve ever eaten at period. Their tuna tartar aperitivo and tuna steak portata principale are just marvelous. Great presentation and service, too.
I’ve now experienced the prologue to what will inevitably be a long, hot summer season with an endless tsunami of flag waving tourist groups, hiking stick clenching retirees and pizza craving Americans – arriving daily in the tens of thousands via trains, buses and cars from all over the world.
I caught a glimpse of how badly the hordes of visitors can behave a few times in two of the four visited villages, and it ain’t pretty. I honestly feel hesitant about even recommending a visit during this time of year. November would probably be considerably calmer and therefor a more enjoyable time to visit Cinque Terre.
The regional government in Liguria needs to put a quota in place to limit the amount of visitors here and by doing so, provide the spectacular beauty this place has to offer some well-needed space. I’ve heard that there are in fact talks of a quota – at least along the trails between villages – but I can only assume that greed is a strong, resilient opponent to limiting the amount of tourists.
I spent more or less ten years of my life working in the hotel and restaurant industry and so, wherever I travel, I try to make an effort to be a good ambassador – as both an American and a Swede. I aim simply to be the kind of guest that makes a good impression just by being genuinely friendly and polite. Simple enough.
Where many other visitors – primarily Germans and Americans – tend to be both boisterous and arrogantly demanding of locals working in the tourism industry, I’ll make an extra effort to show empathy and abide by the their way of doing things – a strategy that generally pays off really well. Like waiting to be seated as opposed to bulldozing my way into a restaurant or bar and expecting to be served pronto. Or, trying to greet and thank people in the local tongue instead of arrogantly assuming my language is the “lingua franca”.
I get that most Chinese tourists don’t have much experience at traveling abroad. And that they have an entirely different set of etiquette rules that dictate their social behavior – regardless of where they are geographically.
But the obnoxious attitude of many of my fellow countrymen I’ve encountered here, is nothing short of disgraceful. The old cliché about Americans being embarrassingly ignorant, boastful and deafeningly loud? It’s alive and well. In their defense, I suppose one could argue that the vast majority of Americans traveling abroad also come from rural parts of the country and that their over-the-top behavior is just a sign of insecurity. But when I think about it some more, the exaggerated behavior seems familiar, somehow. It’s really not too dissimilar from that of the next Republican presidential candidate.
Speaking of which, Louis CK has a few well-chosen words about Mr Trump. Get them here.