Enigmative: Impregnate

Enigmative: Impregnation

I haven’t been working on my Enigmative series in a while. Finishing off the digital version of “The Aging Man’s Survival Guide” and also fine-tuning the template for the travel book series.

The above piece is from Malaga and at the time I created it (f16/2:00s/23mm/ISO160), I didn’t expect it to look like a swarm of frantic sperm swimming into a woman’s giant, glowing cervix.

Hope to continue making more Enigmatives next week while on a short trip.

Swedish Midsummer 2024

Midsummer 2024

Midsummer’s allure lies in its ability to bring people together in a celebration of nature, light, and Swedish tradition. As so much is changing in my life and in this ancient country, I both appreciate and find solace in partaking in Midsummer. Like last year, this past Friday, we celebrated another sun-drenched Midsummer on the island of Orust, north of Göteborg, together with hosts Alexandra and Pär and friends Veronika, Thomas, Martin and Anette. Charlotte and the lovely women are pictured above.

We spoke of life, of travels of goals, and of the future. We laughed, we juggled, we ate delicious herring, salmon, moose, and wild pig. After sunset, Charlotte and I presented our music quiz and then Thomas shared his movie quiz. It was a terrific evening spent outdoors from noon to midnight.

The rituals and customs that define this remarkable holiday – dancing around the maypole, wearing handmade flower crowns, and sharing meals and drinks with friends and loved ones – create a sense of connection to when I was visiting Sweden in the summer during my childhood.

However, alongside my increasing appreciation for Midsummer, I also have some growing concerns regarding one of Midsummer’s most prominent features: the abundant consumption of schnapps and other alcoholic beverages.

While an integral part of Midsummer’s bygone traditions, the ritual of singing and toasting to schnapps songs can often lead me to overindulge.

I rarely get plastered, but the amount of liquor does tend to detract and fog the overall experience – and can take days for me to overcome, physically and mentally.

Balancing the joy of tradition with personal well-being has once again become a focal point for me.

Birds during a sunset in Botswana

Elephant Feast in the Okavango Delta
Captured these birds somewhere in the Okavango Delta of Botswana. Not far from there, the almost unbearably smelly carcass of a large elephant was being devoured by vultures and hyenas.
The tree branches seemed to serve as a refuge for the few successful birds that had managed to devour a few chunks of raw elephant meat. Not sure if the herons took part in the feisty feast.
Lisbon Train Station designed by Santiago Calatrava

Oriente Station by Spanish architect/engineer/sculptor Santiago Calatrava

Speaking of train stations…I’m just about finished with a new book with some of my favorite images from my visits to Portugal. One of the last photos in the book is from Oriente Station (Gare do Oriente) just minutes before we boarded a southbound train to Lagos in the Algarve.

Unbeknownst to me, Oriente Station was designed by Spanish architect/engineer/sculptor Santiago Calatrava, the designer of the Turning Torso located a short distance from where this is being written.

Oscar-Pieplows-Studenten .jpg

Oscar’s Graduation Party

This is Oscar and Linnea Pieplow, the son and daughter of old friends Joakim Pieplow and his ex-wife Lotta Pieplow. This past Friday was Oscar’s High School graduation party and Charlotte and I had an amazing time celebrating Oscar together with his extensive family, many of which are among our oldest friends here in Malmö.

Madrid’s Estación de Atocha

Madrid Estación de Atocha

As far back as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by train stations. It’s not necessarily the trains per se that intrigue me as much as the tracks leading in and away from the station. Not always, but often enough, the station building itself can be architecturally and/or ornamentally interesting.

This is Madrid’s Estación de Atocha, the Spanish capital’s main train station and one of my favorites. I shot this during a visit to Madrid. I had been invited to join a press event in Havana a few years ago and the PR firm that had arranged my itinerary, thought it would be a good idea to have me spend some time in Spain before flying across the Atlantic to Cuba. 

Copenhagen Photo Festival 2024

Copenhagen Photo Festival 2024

I’ve been invited to show (and hopefully sell) my new book at Copenhagen Photo Festival 2024 in Copenhagen’s Refshalevej. I’ll be having a short talk about “visually owning your neighborhood”, which my new book about Västra Hamnen represents. The image is from last year’s visit to the festival area near Copenhagen Contemporary International Art Center.

Sweden's National Day

Sweden’s National Day

Malmö. Thursday. Afternoon. Sweden’s National Day. 

One of the biggest pitfalls of aging that I am most cautious about falling into, especially since I turned 60 last year, is thinking that everything was much better in the past.
It does ring true sometimes. But far less often than I hear myself muttering every now and then. With some perspective since I moved to Gothenburg a week before Midsummer 1978, I think Sweden has actually gotten a lot better.

When I look back on the 46 years since I began calling Sweden my new homeland, I am filled with both pride and gratitude. Gratitude for the opportunity to start a new life in this fantastically beautiful, elongated country. A nation that in many ways is still characterized by reasonable people, sound values, and sensible social norms.

Do I feel proud to be half-Swedish? 

No, actually just about as little proud as I feel about being half-American. I had nothing to do with where I was born. It just happened that way.
I am definitely glad that I was lucky enough that my mother was from Sweden. If I had stayed in the USA with my useless father, it would probably have ended badly for me.
I only feel pride when I have contributed or influenced something or someone in a positive direction. Otherwise, it’s just a check in the box – a kind of proxy-nationalism that I avoid.

Since I am, after all, one of the country’s many immigrants/migrants, my pride comes from what I have contributed to Swedish society as a citizen and small business owner.

After a quick estimate, we have together paid about 20 million kronor in various taxes since we started our little company 25 years ago (1999). That little contribution is something I actually feel proud of. Doing the “right” thing, so to speak. Being supportive and humble are more important Swedish qualities than being “lagom”. The American in me has always struggled with lagom. Maybe that’s why the word can’t really be translated.

Sweden 2024 is definitely not the Sweden I got to know in 1978. From a slightly critical perspective, I think we have adopted far too much from the USA. The unchecked consumption, junk food, entertainment frenzy, raw profiteering (greed is good!), the commercialization of important public services, and the hysterical corporatization of state/municipal companies have in many cases shown that the solution is not always capitalism.

On the other hand, today’s Sweden is paradoxically both a less homogenized and a much more equal country. This applies to men, women, and everyone in between. Pick your pronoun. But there is still much equality work left to do…

With the risk of falling into the trap I started with, I believe today’s national politicians lack political integrity and, with few exceptions, personality and presence that engage. Most of them are just meh… I can still easily see and hear the voices of Thorbjörn Fälldin, Ola Ullsten, Karin Söder, Lars Werner/CH Hermansson, Olof Palme, Gösta Bohman/Carl Bildt, etc. They were maybe not better… but definitely characters you recognized when they appeared on one of the two TV channels we had back then.

An interesting thing that has remained since my early days in Sweden is the Russian bear, which has never been more present or threatening. And since we recently joined NATO and I am still both an American and Swedish citizen, Putin now has double reasons to target me.

Two of my brothers lived many years in Sweden but moved back to the USA as adults. I stayed. I absolutely do not regret it. My life has been fantastic here and many times better than I could ever have imagined that difficult summer of 1978 when my mother suddenly died and I was about to start a new chapter with the help of Aunt Lillemor in Göteborg.

Over the years, I have had the privilege to see and experience much of the country of Sweden. From Bohuslän to Lappland and from Gotland to Skåne. And there will be more of Sweden this summer.

Happy National Day!

The Eiffel Tower in Paris

The Eiffel Tower in Paris

It’s been a while since I’ve seen the the Eiffel Tower in Paris. I have no plans to visit during the Olympic Games but later this fall, when things go back to “nomral” in the French capital, would be a great time to revisit Paris.

Eric Gadd

Live: Eric Gadd & Friends

I’m not a huge consumer of Swedish music, but there are a few exceptions. One of them is Eric Gadd, whom I’ve seen three or four times over the course of his career. My first live experience was at a venue near Visby on the island of Gotland during the time I was attending the art college there. Last night’s concert with Eric Gadd was great and certified that he is one of the most talented singer-songwriters in Sweden.

Before last night’s gig at Malmö’s Folkets Park, the best show with Eric was an unplugged, indoor performance at the seaside resort Nösund with his wife. That dinner and the show took place on my birthday and was a present from my wife, Charlotte.

That evening’s club feeling reminded me of a tiny room concert I saw with Abe Laboriel’s band Koinonia in North Hollywood at The Baked Potato when Al Jarreau showed up and sang a few tunes.

I was also reminded of when Michael Ruff had a gig in Göteborg and Greg Phillinganes and a few other members of Michael Jackson’s band showed up (after their concert earlier that same day) and jammed for an extended second set.

Sounds of Summer Music Festival Malmo 2024

Sounds of Summer

Today we’re going to spend the afternoon and evening with a few of my all-time favorite Swedish musicians. I bought the tickets back in January and at the time, June 1st seemed incomprehensibly far off and part of a vague, distant future. As someone who prefers listening to soul, jazz, and funk, today’s Sounds of Summer Festival is going to provide a lot of “ear candy” under what looks like a most beautiful Scandinavian sun.

Book signing ICA Maxi

Another Book Signing

I’m having another book signing today at ICA MAXI, our local supermarket.

Book Signing

Book Signing

The first of this week’s two book signings is today at the shopping mall Hansa here in Malmö between 12:00 pm and 2:00 pm. I had a signing there several years ago, but I don’t remember which book it was for.

Finishing Up My Book on Aging

Clouds & Choices
Shot this the other evening. Feels like summer is finally here. We’ve been having clusters of amazing cloud formations these past couple of days. They remind me of similar scenes I’ve captured on islands in Seychelles, the Maldives, and most recently, Okinawa.

Creating the cover art for the aging book has been quite the process, but I think it could be finalized today or tomorrow. Can’t wait to have it published so I can free up more space for the next book.

It’s interesting that as I age, I’m either very unwavering or very ambiguous about creative decisions I routinely need to make. I was kind of hoping that the lingering hesitancy would subside with the combo of knowledge and experience that I’ve accumulated over the years (aka wisdom?). But no, some days, I almost feel like it’s increasing.

Maybe I’ve reached a point in life where the insecurity I experience is actually a “spidey sense” in disguise telling me what to prioritize and what I should skip or ignore.

Joakim Lloyd Raboff kayaking in Stockholm. Photography: Henry Arvidsson/Wondering Viking.

Kayaking

Henry Arvidsson captured this shot while we were somewhere between two islands in Stockholm on Saturday evening. After a couple of days of extensive walking around the Swedish capital, it was wonderful to let my fatigued legs rest and use mostly arm power to propel the rickety vessel forward.

Prison Hotel Långholmen in Stockholm

Back from Stockholm

Back again in Malmö from what turned out to be a splendid weekend in Stockholm. One of the highlights was a two-hour kayaking tour with buddy Henry around the island where the converted prison we were staying at was located.

During our three-night stay at this nicely refurbished, perfectly located prison, I pondered the history of pain and suffering that must have occurred within its cell rooms and other parts of the correctional facility. It made me consider the ethical implications of repurposing such institutions. In two hundred years, would it be acceptable to transform Auschwitz or any other concentration camp into a resort?

In its heyday, the Colosseum in Rome, aka The Flavian Amphitheatre, was an arena of severe brutality, showcasing among other spectacles, gladiatorial fights for the sheer enjoyment of Roman citizens until the early 5th century AD. Though not currently a hotel or resort, the Colosseum stands as one of the world’s most popular tourist attractions, drawing over 7 million visitors annually.

Stockholm

Stockholm

Back in a seductively beautiful early summer Stockholm. As usual, when I visit the city this time of year, I want nothing more than to move here. It’s been like this for decades. Not so much during the winter months, though. My masochism doesn’t extend that far anymore.

Yesterday’s 32,100 steps got me from the old prison Långholmen past Slussen to Fotografiska, then across to Skeppsholmen and Moderna (where I took the opportunity to vote in the EU election).

Then through Kungsan and via Söder Mälarstrand back to the prison and after a much-needed shower and change of clothes straight back to Mosebacke before a pitstop at the bar on top of the new Gondola restaurant. Finally, my buddy Henry and I had dinner at Brasserie Süd near Mariatorget. It was an all-around superb Friday in the capital.

New Bridge in Varvsstaden in Malmö, Sweden

Varvsstaden

Spent the better part of yesterday afternoon riding around the old industrial shipyard area now called Varvsstaden. It was too windy for aerial photos but I found a rooftop that sufficed nicely. My main focus was on the new red bridge across one of the harbor inlets. A version of this image will definitely make into the book about this area.

Joakim Lloyd Raboff's New Book-About Male Aging

New Book: Male Aging
About eight months ago, while staying here at Levante which is one of the very best hotels I’ve ever been a guest at (seriously, it’s really that good!), I started a new project. I had turned 60 a few months before but was still struggling to come to grips with being that old and accepting how all the more or less subtle changes in my body and mind – which I’d certainly been aware of for a few years – were all part of a perfectly natural conspiracy known as “Andropause”, or male Menopause.

So, while I was at this amazing Mediterranean sports hotel again early last fall, eating well, and working out at least three hours a day, I decided to start writing about how I was experiencing the new, strange phase I was going through and in detail describe the various ways it was impacting different aspects of my life, physically, mentally, sexually and emotionally.

Eventually, the project evolved. I realized that I not only wanted to write for myself but also for other men my age who might read the book and feel some comfort in knowing that they aren’t alone in tackling this aging thing.

I’m no stranger to embarking on colossal creative journeys. That’s kinda been my MO: taking on challenges that are way above my pay grade and range of ability is what has kept my career so interesting and invigorating. The “I can do that!” mentality has been my motto for as long as I can remember. That said, this has by far been the toughest project of my career.

I’m extremely competitive with myself and get easily bored when I have too much repetitive work that doesn’t provide me with an adequate amount of “imposter syndrome” and “failure anxiety”.

Earlier today, from the very same spot where I wrote the book’s outline in September 2023, I sent the 250-page, 11-chapter manuscript to David Pahmp, my trusty Swedish book designer, Art Director, and fellow Visual Artist – someone I’ve worked with for more than a decade on at least a dozen book projects.

When the layout and cover art are finalized, hopefully sometime next week, I’m going to self-publish my new book on Amazon’s bookstore. And since a couple of iconic Swedish publishers have shown interest in the project when it’s available in Swedish, my ambition is to have it translated within the next few months.

ειρήνη (peace)
Thoughts about War Games with Mathew-Broderick

WarGames

Whenever I’m feeling nostalgic and just need a hit of something comfortingly familiar, I usually end up pulling out an old movie. One of the few perks of getting older is that over the years, I’ve forgotten enough details about films from my youth that rewatching them still offers entertainment value.

The screenshot above is from a recent rewatch – the 1983 film WarGames where actor Matthew Broderick hacks his way into the mainframe of a NORAD computer called “WOPR” from his bedroom. While full of plot holes and a typical over-the-top Hollywood finale, it’s still kind of crazy how a film from the ’80s can capture so much of today’s global tensions, armed conflicts, unprovoked aggression, you name it.