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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.

Whatever.

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!


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.


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


How Västra Hamnen changed my life

One spring Sunday afternoon about 17 years ago, my wife and I went for our weekend rollerblade ride in what is now called Västra Hamnen.

At the time, we were living comfortably in a huge apartment in town, near Davidshalls Torg and had no plans whatsoever of moving.

Our ride began at the mouth of the canal that runs parallell to a dog park at Ribersborg Beach and we skated along the asphalt path adjacent to the coastline, all the way to the old heliport, where Dockan is now.

The year was 1999, so this took place way before the housing exhibit, “Bo01, City of Tomorrow”. The entire nameless area was pretty much undeveloped (aside from the  defunct SAAB factory) and as far as we knew – at least back then – abandoned and forgotten.

Two years later, during one of several visits to the aforementioned housing expo, we fell literally in love with the small, seaside district with all its intriguing, often quirky architecture, innovative garden and park concepts, thoughtful urban planning ideas and out-of-the-box solutions for how to solve the needs and wants of people living and working there.

A gradual epiphany came upon us and soon we realized how boring our old apartment was and how living in the clutter of downtown Malmö was no longer appealing. Instead, we were drawn to the idea of living close to the sea and enjoying more time out in the open spaces with many small parks and gently rounded hills along the very same path where we had skated years before. Being able to spend more time outdoors with our then young daughter, Elle, was also a key component in the decision process.

Our friends in Malmö thought we were absolutely crazy when we a year later revealed that we’d bought a small, grass-roofed, two story house in what had come to be nicknamed, “Bo01”.

And though the local press constantly put a negative spin on everything pertaining to Malmö’s newest residential area, we were still convinced that moving to Västra Hamnen was not just an outlandishly adventurous idea, but also a commitment that would eventually add value to both our lives and livelihood.

During the 15 years since we first arrived here, I’ve taken many thousands of images, produced a series of 11 popular books, 10 about Västra Hamnen and one dedicated to the amazing skyscraper, Turning Torso, and have had my photographs purchased by people and companies from all over the world.

My Facebook page, I Love Västra Hamnen, has nearly 15,000 fans – whom continuously encourage me to capture unique moments and new perspectives. And as of two years ago, Charlotte and I established a state-of-the-art photography studio and gallery next door to the Turning Torso by Green Matmarknad. Both spaces compliment my online web shop at www.gallerivastrahamnen.se where the vast majority of my high resolution images are archived and available for immediate purchase and download.

As a photographer, I don’t think there are many places in Sweden that could keep me so creatively inspired and challenged as Västra Hamnen has.

And despite not having as much time as in earlier years to document the ongoing expansion, I still always carry a competent pocket camera with me when I’m out and about here.

Whenever returning from assignments, regardless where, in Europe, Asia, Africa or America, Västra Hamnen still provides me with both some kind of spiritual solitude and creative sanctuary. When photographing here, I feel far from the often narrow creative briefs and at times extremely detailed art directions I commonly work within as a commercial photographer.

Here, I have the kind of freedom I am used to as an editorial photographer – with the added benefit of being able to enhance my impressions in post production. See, I have yet to experience a camera capable of fully recording what I see and more importantly, how I feel at the moment of capturing a landscape.

Västra Hamnen has certainly changed my life. Both personally and professionally. And as the district continues to grow with new neighborhoods and companies establishing business here, more and more people in Malmö and elsewhere aspire to either live or work here. Or, both. The quality of life here far exceeds anything I can possibly write or even photograph. It just has to be experienced. First hand.


Morning Meadow

For whatever reason, I woke up super early today after 5-6 hours of good quality sleep. A peek out the window revealed a beautiful morning and so, I headed out to the meadow to capture the horses (which returned yesterday, just as mysteriously as they disappeared a week ago).


Lillaro anno 2016

Of the world’s total population, only a small fraction of a single digit percentage can possibly know about, or, have ever heard of Vejbystrand. In a way, that’s a good thing.

Still, being someone that really enjoys inspiring people to travel and share some of my experiences from the places I love, I can’t help but encourage folks to visit us while we’re here in Vejbystrand.

And so, this past week has seen a lot of friends from Stockholm, Göteborg and Malmö drop by for lunch or dinner. Fact is, our social life is far richer here than back home where so much other stuff seems to dominate our lives. Like traveling…


Horses vs Cows

For whatever logical or unearthly reason, the horses in front of our house are gone. One minute they were there, happily grazing, enjoying life and allowing me photograph them from time to time. Then one morning, as I headed out to the meadow to take advantage of the early sunlight, they’d just disappeared. Vanished.

The mystery has yet to be solved, but I worry not so much as my archive of horse images is chock full. And so, I can now focus on photographing and filming the plump cows in the adjacent pasture. How now, brown cow.


Whacked but Running

My right knee kept the pace slower than I had anticipated and my hips and thighs were a bit stiff, but after 2-3k, I was pretty much my old self and crossed the finish line after this morning’s 10k run in decent time. The stretch of beautifully wild land I ran along, is so-called common or, public, owned by the people, populated by grazing cows and horses and has a natural path for runners and walkers. I’ve run many places around the world. This is certainly one of my favorites. I captured the aerial shot a couple of years ago while shooting landscapes between Malmö and Ängelholm.


Apocalypse Now

If you’re at marginally interested in film, chances are you’ll have seen at least one of the several available versions of Apocalypse Now by director, Francis Ford Coppola, (the Godfather trilogy, Rumble Fish, American Graffiti) and an the all-star cast, including, Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper, Marlon Brando and Harrison Ford.

I re-watched Apocalypse Now just the other night, this time a reduxed version with several entirely new and expanded scenes, and was again blown away by fabulous acting performances, action sequences and sound design.  Couldn’t resist doing a little research and found that the epic film took a grueling 18 months to film – mostly deep in the jungles the Philippines – and some three years to edit and assemble.

I mention this only because during my research, I came across the above casual conversation between Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Sheen where they chat about some of the film production’s most challenging moments, meteorologically, emotionally and for Mr Sheen (whom suffered a heart attack during filming) physically

Wanna watch the entire film? Someone has uploaded it to Youtube here..


Porridge fitting for a rainy Sunday

The trick to a really tasty porridge is accompanying the rather bland crushed oats with a range of more flavorful ingredients.

Now, I don’t eat porridge everyday, but while here in the rustic countryside – where it’s been raining all night and the better part of the morning – a cold smoothie just couldn’t of hit the mark.

For this morning’s concoction I added walnuts, fresh ginger, banana, a teaspoon of honey, tablespoon of organic, unsweetened peanut butter, raisins, water, pinch of salt and a half a cup of coconut milk.  Needless to say (but I will anyway), today’s spiced up porridge was ludicrously good.

Side note: Kung Markatta is Sweden’s premiere producer of ecologically sound condiments, conserved legumes, beans, nuts and a whole slew of other foodstuff.

As cynical and greedy as the actors in the food industry indisputably are, Kung Markatta seems to be both one of the least dishonest and since 1983, certainly one of the most consistent players on the not-so-level playing field. Read their story here and decide for yourself.