united nations swedish mission

STEVE & THE UNITED NATIONS

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.

freedom Tower

The Pope

My first six years of formal education was at Saint Victor’s Catholic Elementary School on Holloway Drive (merely a few blocks below legendary music mecca, Tower Records on the Sunset Strip). All of my teachers were nuns and as stiff as the sticks they used to reprimand most kids with – if for no better reason than to infuse us with a little dose of holy pain. So much for turning the other cheek, right?

One of the church’s head priests, an elderly monsignor who’s name has faded out of memory (mine), passed away during the years I attended. At his funeral, his red and black robed corpse was placed in beautifully decorated, open casket by the alter for all to look at. To this day, his is the only dead body I have ever seen or, been physically close enough to actually touch. I mention this in passing as today, when the event I’ve been working on for a week will take place, I will be heading to the U.N. – just hours after Pope Francis has left that very building for a non-denominational prayer at the Freedom Tower.


South Street Seaport

From last night’s gorgeous view of Brooklyn’s shoreline as seen from the East River. I’m kinda liking the Financial District after all. Staying has it’s perks.

My very first visit to New York City was sometime in late summer of 1986. I was heading out to L.A. and what turned out to be a short stint in Hollywood. The South Street Seaport had recently opened and was extremely popular among the Wall Street crowd – particularly after the bell rang on Fridays. The busy and smelly Fulton Fish Market was still there (in 2005, it moved to the South Bronx) and I spent an intense weekend hanging out with a couple of friends – Andy and Todd – two New Yorkers whom I’d met during the summer of 1983 while traveling across Europe on trains.

I was twenty three years old when I stepped off the plane at JFK in Queens, and within just a few hours, I was completely absorbed by New York City. Ed Koch was still mayor, Keith Haring was on the verge of breaking out as the first superstar graffiti artist and cocaine, ganja and crack was offered to me (if I remember correctly, it was usually in that order) literally everywhere. For good or for worse, the city back then was ten times edgier than today. Having said that, I really enjoy working here now that I don’t have to worry too much about whipping out a large camera. And if I really want edgy, I just have to take a train uptown to 125th Street (Harlem) or just about anywhere but Williamsburg in Brooklyn.

union square park raboff

I’m surrounded by towering, glass skyscrapers filled with hundreds – if not thousands – of offices.

As I write this, around 6:30 a.m. (New York time), most of the buildings are still unlit – but it can only be a matter of minutes before people start filing into entrances, riding elevators, slipping into office chairs and taking on the day’s routines and challenges.

If I press the right side of my face hard up against the hotel room’s window pane, I can actually see a slice of the East River.

Never stayed in the Financial District before. Not overly excited about this part of Manhattan. Battery Park is nice as is the walkway along the Hudson over on the west side. But considering all that’s going on in the city this week, it just seemed practical to stay here – at least for the next couple of days – while I commute to the United Nations north of here.

Almost time for a New York breakfast. It’s been about two weeks since my last one.

Ken Wegas

cross pollination

One of the benefits of living in a relatively small city like Malmö, is that eventually you will find yourself somehow, someway connected to friends of friends, friends of business partners and friends of clients. Case in point: the star of the commercial I produced about two weeks ago for Nordic Choice latest property, Clarion Hotel & Congress Malmö Live, Kenneth “Ken Wegas” Wahlberg and I have now worked together on two additional projects. Most recently on the rooftop of the aforementioned hotel during an amazing sunset.


New Work New York

The freelancers universe is largely a mysterious place. Most of the territory is undiscovered and even seasoned voyagers will from time to time find themselves in the midst of the most extraordinary circumstances. That’s where I am right now. And so, in a few days, I will return to New York to work on a project for the Swedish Mission to the United Nations. The above picture has absolutely nothing to do with this post. I just think it’s pretty awesome.

Manhattan views

Home

From the surreal to the real. That’s one way of looking at it. Like all great cities I visit, there’s somewhat of a withdrawal once I get home. But unlike when I arrive in Malmö from, say, the extremely crowded Bangkok, returning from the busy but not nearly as densely populated New York City is far less dramatic. The transition just feels smoother, somehow.

I’ve stayed at about 30 different hotels on the island of Manhattan. This trip, I opted for a really new boutique hotel called, The Paul. The location was good, but even more importantly, the view from the hotel’s (unlocked and easily accessible) rooftop turned out to be absolutely fabulous. As an aficionado of just about all things New York, I’m always on the lookout for new vantage points where I can capture “behind the scene” views of the city. The Paul also offered a decent view of the Empire State Building on it’s front side.


Back in Town

Back in New York. Third time this year. In March it snowed. In May it was sunny but cool. Now, in September, it’s hot and sticky. Tropical, almost.

Thoroughly enjoyed an early morning film session along the Highline yesterday. And in the afternoon, I spent a few hours on Roosevelt Island. It seems as if I can’t get enough of that tram ride.

The Bengtsson Sisters invited me to a picnic later in the afternoon at lush Riverside Park where I met a bunch of friendly folk. Days like these are always long. But nowhere do I feel so creatively infused and cerebrally inspired. It must be all the interesting, high energy, individuals.

Tomorrow, I’ll be working at Sweden’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations. Never a dull moment in this town!

sami rabie

Work Balance

When you do what I do, it’s almost ridiculously hard to maintain equilibrium. I’m just too intrigued by my creative process to draw the line – to know when to call it a day.  But the fact is, right now, I seem to have found just the right balance.

I’ve started training again and the subsequent endorphin boost I get after running 7k or more, is getting me through long hours of studio and location shooting.

It’s the end of yet another productive week with one TV commercial (TV4), a print folder, unveiling of my Turning Torso book and about a dozen or so other projects. Tomorrow, Charlotte and I are going to partake in the Midnight Run (10k) which starts about the same time as I usually head off to bed. Already looking forward to running next week while in New York for yet another gig. This time, at the Swedish Permanent Mission to the United Nations.

The picture above? Sami – the young son of Samer, my buddy and one of Malmö’s best chefs.

HSB Turning Torso book

NEW BOOK

So today we celebrated the beautiful sculpture that evolved into an amazing skyscraper; Turning Torso. Delicious birthday cake, a great jazzband, a few speeches and ten daredevil base jumpers that descended from the roof, helped wow about 250 guests during the party.

Completed ten years ago today, the festivities, held right outside the Turning Torso’s main entrance, also celebrated the courage that HSB (the premiere cooperative housing association in Sweden) showed when they commissioned the Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava, to design it and then have the boldness to actually finance building it.

In late spring, I was assigned by HSB to produce a coffee table book about Turning Torso. The book, simply/aptly titled, “Turning Torso”, was unveiled today and contains, aside from exterior and interior images, several interviews and “home visits” with some of Turning Torso’s residential and commercial tenants.

The spanking new book is available at Galleri Västra Hamnen in the Turning Torso Gallery, right next to Turning Torso itself.