Resurfaced: Podil in Kyiv

From a wall somewhere in the central district of Podil in Kyiv. As the Ukrainian capital is 3 or 4 times larger, there are significantly more walls and bulletin boards with public postings than in Tbilisi. That said, I had the feeling that the ones I captured in Georgia were older, more dated and often had thick layered texture. On the other hand, and I’m obviously guessing here, at least some of the Ukrainian postings were more personal. Quite a few were even written in beautiful longhand.


Powerful Communist Propaganda

For all the shitty stuff the various flavors of Communism have represented thus far, the commie’s propaganda machine has always been much better at crafting powerful symbolism and manifesting it publicly, than any other political system I can think of besides the Nazis and, possibly the Roman Empire.

The US was absolutely fabulous at crafting and promoting effective propaganda prior to and during WWII. But I think the government lost its way shortly thereafter. And in today’s divisive, uber-cynical, unforgiving cancel-culture, American society, what isn’t propaganda?

You have to be severely ignorant not to know how brutal comrades Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, Pol Pot, and the Castro brothers were and how tyrannical their successors continue to steer their countries.

Today, I’d argue that the only country left (pun intended) still producing noteworthy propaganda is General Secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, Chairman of the Central Military Commission, and President of the State Affairs Commission, i.e. Respected Supreme Leader Comrade Kim Jong-un.

Now, I wonder if his team of artists, graphic designers, and desktop publishers are using the exact same Adobe Creative Cloud apps as I am. Probably. The question that keeps me up at night is whether or not they’re using cracked versions of Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign, or. if they actually have a subscription paid for by Kim.

Found this star by the Duga Radar in the Exclusion Zone near the nuclear powerplant at Chernobyl, Ukraine.


It’s the fragmented clues, strewn all over and layered on a surface that gets me excited about a wall like this. The curled snippets, faded, barely legible, just pieces. That’s what intrigues me. The unknown. The unsolvable. A series of mysteries. There’s so much soulfulness in our desperate need to communicate, anywhere, anyplace. That’s Resurfaced.


Its hard not to fly

I am out and about again. It’s hard not to fly, even if I know that I shouldn’t contribute to the lifestyle that is fucking up the planet. But it’s hard as hell not to travel again. One livable planet, one livable life (as far as we know, anyway).

I captured the above image at Riga’s International Airport a few days ago. Shortly after the shot was taken, a plump woman in a tight uniform told me that it was forbidden to photograph planes at the gate and that I needed to instantly stop what I was doing. Surprised, I shrugged, packed down my camera gear, and strolled over to the tiny bar adjacent to the gate, ordered a cold, refreshing beer, pulled down my mask, and gulped half of it down in one take. Travel ain’t what it used to be.


Art: Resurfaced: Tbilisi

This composition is an excellent example of what my project is all about. It’s from a wall in the Mtatsminda neighborhood of Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, where the profusion of layered public postings made each day’s urban trek an exhilarating experience. Only when daylight faded did I quit my exploration of the city and potential compositions for my Resurfaced series.


Function vs Form

In most cases, function has higher priority than form. But form can also be an incredibly important part of function. Something that’s easy to hold and use has a thought-through form/function ratio. Consumer companies, at least their industrial design teams, have to keep this in mind to be competitive. We’ve all become so aware cognizant of design and how aesthetics can determine the ease of use of an app, a phone, a camera.

When I saw this stairwell not too long ago, I wondered who decided to put in church-like stained windows instead of, well, just normal glass. And what made the architect or developer of the property choose a staircase that was so generously wide and tall? And who chose that gorgeous green color?

There are obviously added costs when you add features. Especially if the add-ons aren’t actually adding anything. But when I walked up and down these beautiful stairs, I could understand how the people that lived there would enjoy using them. There’s a level of generosity gone lost in much of today’s residential architecture. Too much function and rarely any form to speak of. In order to produce as rationally and cost-effectively as possible, form has at best become an afterthought. Sometimes at the expense of function.

A lavatory in economy class on a regional plane is a good example. Super-functional insofar that everything you need is right there. But it’s squeezed into such a tiny space, that even if it’s hyper-functional, it’s also hyper-claustrophobic. Now when you’re lucky enough to sit in Business Class during a long-haul flight, the restrooms are usually somewhat larger in size. The WC designer has been provided a bit more room to add some form to the small space’s functions, making the experience, if not enjoyable, at least a little less unpleasant and easier to get done what you have to get done in there.


Beauty in the Details

This composition enthralled me. There is something biblical about it. Not in a religious sense, though. More so in the story, it was intended to narrate but is no longer able to communicate. At least in a meaningful way. As is the case quite often,  beauty is in the details. Together they create an enigmatic picture worthy of inclusion in the Resurfaced series.


Meet the Anderssons

A couple of years ago, a friend brought me a small cardboard box. It was roughly the size of an A4 paper and had belonged to my aunt Lillemor Andersson before she died in 2014. It contained a wide range of letters, photographs, postcards, and other more or less significant documents pertaining to my mother’s side of the family.

My grandma Agnes was a de facto mother to me, so any image with her in it is always heartfelt. Before today, I had never seen a family portrait like the one above with my mother and her sisters gathered in it. I don’t know when the photograph was taken, but judging from Lillemor’s young age, she was born in 1944 and was the youngest of her siblings, it must have been sometime in the late 1940s or early 1950s.

My mother, Solveig/Cissi/Ina was 13 years older and aunt Elvy, the oldest of the girls, was born in 1926. It’s Elvy’s husband, Stig Starrsjö next to my grandfather Eskil looking down at her. He was one of several father figures in my younger years. Uncle Stig was a sweet man with a giant heart and a creative spirit.

The only surviving member of the Andersson clan in the photo is the seclusive Lillian, born 1938 and apparently living somewhere along Sweden’s west coast.

I love this photo and can only imagine what it must have been like getting everybody together, deciding clothes, positions, fixing the lighting, and coaching the group to smile for the shot to convey at least a brief sense of congeniality, however fugacious it may have been before and after the final frame was exposed. I wonder what camera was used. I’m not in touch with Lillian these days, but, boy, would I love to hear her memories of this historical Andersson family session!


Keepin’ The Creative Juices Flowin’

Meanwhile here in Vejbystrand…the rain is falling, the wind is blowing and the temperature is steadily dropping. After a reasonably creative year, despite all kinds of stuff going in and around my life, I’m trying to stay afloat and keep the creative juices flowing. I still live by my old, handcrafted motto, “Never do Nothing”but with the fall upon us and the winter nearing, I’m feeling a little creativly claustrophobic in our tiny, beautiful village.


Resurfaced on Rustaveli

Resurfaced Curly Scripts

From a wall somewhere during my visit to the incredibly interesting city of Tbilisi, capital of Georgia. Despite looking somewhat similar to my eyes, it turns out that Georgia’s beautiful script with its curly curves is not in any way related to the Burmese script’s many circular characters. It’s purely coincidental. A friend told me that the youngest of the texts in this “resurfaced” piece is about an Aikido Federation announcement and is approximately a decade old. So my lofty idea of preserving public postings like these, however legible or layered they may be – and the more layered the better, I say – seems to have some validation.


Scene 29 Resurfaced

Though I do have a free account on Spotify that I rarely make use of, I am an Apple Music subscriber and frequent listener. Just a while ago, a song came up on the AI-generated AOR/Westcoast playlist that I’d never heard before. And it was only when the tune’s solo started playing that I realized it was likely legendary record producer and guitar virtuoso Jay Graydon picking the strings. The band’s name is JaR and the song is Cure Kit Scene 29

At the time I was working on a new resurfaced piece for uncle Paul’s latest poem. So naming felt intuitively easy.


Vanilla Flavored Coffee

Of all the coffees I’ve had over the years, all over the world, including places like Guatemala, Indonesia, Kenya and Italy, the one flavor that I keep returning to is the French Vanilla Flavored Ground Coffee made by of all companies, Dunkin’ Donuts. I recently ordered a vacupack from Amazon Deutschland and the flavor is consistent with what you get at any of the donut company’s shops. You can also order it from the American Food and Gift Store which I think is based in Sweden. I shot the coffee cup above during breakfast in Spain a while back. It’s pretty nifty way to get guests to replenish their caffeine depot.


Sunflower Friends

Here’s a small side project that I’ve been working on from time to time for a few days. I just can’t get enough of these shiny yellow flowers. Shot with just about every camera and lens I own (including my six-year-old iPhone 7 with macro glass) and during all kinds of weather conditions.


Resurfaced: Malmö

Another incredibly interesting wall that nobody but me would take notice of. I walked by it earlier in the week somewhere in Malmö and realizing that something about the wall had caught my attention, so I took a few steps back to check it out. Low and behold, it had all the right components: a wide color gamut, plenty of patina, and plenty of fragments from years of layered postings. Now it’s part of my collection of Resurfaced images.


BBC Global News Podcast

I’m still addicted to the bi-daily BBC Global News Podcast. Perhaps this sounds discriminatory, but I still haven’t found a Swedish equivalence when it comes to striking an intriguing balance of daily news. Most Swedish journalists, especially foreign correspondents, are stiff and only mildly talented. And in the US, nothing comes even close to the editorial quality the BBC provides regularly. Both cable and terrestrial news outlets in the US are way too polluted with politics and commercial interests. Even John Oliver’s show offers better coverage than any traditional American newsroom.

This team (including the elusive editor Karen Martin) should be awarded for their excellent hosting and aforemnetioned balancing act between war and conflict reporting, human interest stories, and humorous tidbits that lighten the mental load.

Here’s an interview with one other the podcast’s most frequent and excellent hosts, Jackie Leonard.


Some New Apples
Here’s our apple tree right now. It’s literally bulging with Pink Lady-esque apples. I’ve made a batch of apple sauce with some, but there’s just too many, so we’ll probably have a local company help us make a few jugs of cider with the rest. Or, dry them in a hydrater.

Today’s Apple Day. Not the fruit, but the company with Newton’s fruit of knowledge symbol. I’ve been an Apple customer since 1990 and even if it’s been many years since the company lost it’s “friendly rebel“ status and became a corporate behemoth and uncurbed producer of all kinds of more or less significant consumer stuff, most of which is far, far from being the creative tools that I was originally mesmerized by, I can still get a little excited when a product I use is due to be refreshed.

So, later tonight, I’ll probably watch the product launch of the year’s crop of new iPhones and other gadgetry. My phone is 3 years old and still does what I need it to do without complaints. So I don’t think an update is necessary. I might anyway, though. The wide-angle lens and night photography features would be nice to have.


Circle of Life

Like a child, not yet privy to the circle of life, I felt a sudden sadness for the bird. I wondered how or why its life had ended on this beach in Vejbystrand. Did it die at sea and was washed ashore?

Did the bird’s existence end from old age or illness? Had it flown too far, or, as Icarus, too close to the sun, suddenly surprised by heat asthenia, its tired wings that would no longer carry the toilsome weight between them? Perhaps it then fell from the sky, landed in the shallows, and was then gently washed up onto the sand.

The bird’s flesh was gone and much of its thin bones had withered. What remained were feathers of which the wind would soon blow away. Leaving only a memory. And a photograph.


New Book: Sliperiet Gylsboda

Charlotte shot these images during my talk at  the book release yesterday afternoon. My 18th book is about the people and their creative deeds at the art and culture center Sliperiet in scenic Gylsboda, Skåne, Sweden.

The book conveys in words and pictures part of the area’s rich cultural history, the artists’ activities and the importance of the diabase quarries for both the town and the region.

In addition to the diabase and many quarries that surround Gylsboda, the village is perhaps best known for the author Harry Martinson living there as a child and depicting his years in this rural part of Sweden in the novel “Flowering Nettle” (for which he received the Nobel Prize).

The new book is also a tribute to the driving individuals that have tirelessly transformed the for decades abandoned Sliperiet into a creative center for arts and crafts with studios, workshops, exhibition space and a café. The book’s texts are in Swedish and English and can be ordered on Sliperiet’s website: www.sliperietgylsboda.se


Sunflowers and Vincent van Gogh

Our sunflowers bloomed a couple of weeks later than usual this year, but are no less beautiful for it. On the contrary, 2021’s sunflowers have extra sturdy stems and unusually large flower crowns

Sunflowers are said to lift the soul, symbolize adoration, loyalty and longevity. I have long been enchanted by their colorful look and impressive height. When I lived in the Johanneberg district in Gothenburg, I grew sunflowers every spring on my tiny balcony and they would reach for the sky! But it was probably during my training as a visual artist at Gotland Art School in the early 1990s that my love for “Helianthus” really took off.

Like many of my fellow students, I also adopted the Impressionist Vincent van Gogh as a kind of patron saint for us bourgeoning artists. His sunflowers vibrated with life and reflected a joy that was so difficult for him to capture beyond the canvas. Like many creative people, it was almost only during the process of creation that Vincent experienced weightless happiness. As a “poor” student, it was not difficult to recognize the frustration and anguish that van Gogh fought against. He made the suffering for the sake of art feel noble, somehow. No pain, no gain.

All in all, Vincent is said to have painted a total of 11 paintings with sunflower motifs; four in Paris and seven in Arles. I have on a couple of occasions been to the fields in Provence where it’s believed that he created some of the most beautiful images.

As I stood there looking out over the bright yellow sea of ​​rhythmically swaying sunflowers, I was mesmerized by the view and could appreciate that Vincent van Gogh might have felt euphorically happy as he stood there with his field easel, paints, and canvases, ready with unwieldy gestures and great frenzy to interpret the amazing view in front of him.

I also feel joy in our garden here in Stora Hult today when looking at our gently swaying sunflowers. They stand guard, tightly next to each other in front of the shed’s long side, ready to spread joy as we pass.


Mail

I can’t remember when I last received a handwritten letter from a friend or anyone for that matter. On the other hand, I really can’t remember when I wrote one myself. I am dubious about my ability to sit down and write a letter today. Would I use a cursive or a printed style? When did I last hold a pen?

Just remembered that I have a pretty thick binder full of old letters from old friends. One day I’ll get around to re-reading them.


Door Knocker

Before video doorbells, before electric doorbells, there were door knockers. Well, there have also been other kind of ways to get the attention of someone behind a door, including manual bells and pushbutton ringers.

But old-school door knockers are arguably still the coolest and best way to announce an arrival. This one is from somewhere in Málaga, Spain.


Finding Resurfaced Walls

So eventually the images in my resurfaced series will end up in a book. That’s the plan, anyway. I’ve exhibited a few, last year during Malmö’s Gallery Night, but I felt they were way too small to do the project justice.

The piece above is from Poland, from a wall in Krakow’s Old Town, I believe. I can literally spend hours and many km walking around a city to find new walls that entice me. Which is just fine as my expeditions also provide an abundance of exercise. I’ll often walk by a section of a wall or utility box and then stop and take a step or two back to see if there is something worth pulling out my camera for. It’s an artistic, investigative discovery mission, of sorts. People that take note of what I am photographing must think I’m a bit whacko. Which is also fine.


Plant Art

It’s a cliché, but nonetheless true: the most spectacularly beautiful art, the most organic, natural creativity is and will always be found in our planet’s biosphere. I grew up surrounded by this kind of agave plant and every time I see one, I feel drawn to it. They make me happy, somehow.


Charlie & The Rolling Stones
I wonder if the artist that painted the above has seen or heard of The Rolling Stones album Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!

Sad to hear that Mick Jagger will never again have reason to say “Charlie’s good tonight, ain’t he?”. But what a run Mr. Watts had during his 80-year life! I’d argue that he was by far the most talented musician in the band – but boring beyond belief to look at. Which I guess was part of his schtick.

I’ve seen the Stones live. It was back in 1982 at Ullevi Stadium in Göteborg during their Tattoo You Tour. The concert I attended was June 19 and even if I never had been much of a fan, I preferred the Beatles’ polished sound, catchier melodies, and sense of humor, I knew that not attending at least one of the two Stones concerts would be a huge cultural mistake that I would probably always regret.

A bunch of us gathered at buddy Lars’s house the night before the show to warm up,  and, well, let’s just say things got a little out of hand with the partying. Let’s also just say that I didn’t fully recuperate until a few minutes before Mick and his bandmates entered the gigantic stage. Let’s say that I have never since filled a glass with dentist high proof alcohol mixed with Fanta. Let’s finally say that I’ve since the occasion never washed my pants in someone’s fish tank.

Anyway, here’s the setlist to The Rolling Stones concert.


Serendipity

Serendipity. How I love that word. It’s the opposite of preordained or predestined. I embrace serendipity. That’s how I came across this bag of cobblestones laying on a sidewalk somewhere. It was as if someone had bought the stones at an IKEA warehouse and then tried to carry them home. At some point, the burden must have gotten too heavy. So they gave up, leaving the abandoned stones in the yellow and blue bag, and just walked away only for me to come across it serendipitously. Truth be told, I added the logos after the fact. Couldn’t resist.


Artifactuals

How could I not be compelled to capture this wonderfully bright yellow door framed by a wall of red tiles? Should I instead have forsaken the opportunity because of its obvious allure?

My need to document, eternalize and archive almost any given subject matter is thankfully evolving. I’d argue that the image above is an exception, that I am markedly more focused on exploring and discovering fragments of artifacts of art, hence my Resurfaced series. Still, I continue to be drawn to repetitive patterns, to both complementary and analogous colors and compositions that at least pose a bit of a challenge. I am constantly framing my environment, always on the lookout for balance.

I’m aware of this being autonomous, the result of working as a commercial and editorial photographer for so many years; finding the “right” angle, figuring out how to get the best light, determining focal field and exposure. So, with this in mind, I often have to stop myself from capturing the obvious. The valley of “très très triste” is safe, familiar, and easy. And art should never be too safe, familiar, and easy.


Yearning for Tokyo

I saw this sign somewhere outside of Japan. I find that I periodically feel a curiously strong yearning for Tokyo. Just pronouncing the name out loud gets me a little travel excited. And when I think of some of the places there that I’ve discovered but only scratched the surface of, well, it gets my hopes up that one day I’ll be able to return and experience the intensity, the insane politeness, and endless idiosyncrasies that I think define Tokyo as one of the world’s most alluring metropolises.


Hanging Around

Two resurfaced pieces combined.


Which Switch 2021

Life is full of choices. Too many at times. Some estimate that on average, humans make 35,000 decisions per day. Most are made automatically and others are so trivial that we barely notice that we actively make them. But we do. Like choosing which socks to wear, or, what foot to put them on first. As the day progresses, our decisions tend to demand a deeper thought process for us to reach a conclusion that won’t result in a negative result. Like choosing which route to take to work, or, getting sucked into a time-consuming topic on social media because we chose to take a peek there before doing more important stuff.

I find that many of the choices I make are influenced by my emotions – which is perfectly normal as I work as an artist and use my gut feeling, instinct, or, “Emotional Intelligence” to help guide my creative choices. And I am perfectly happy using my emotions to steer my path in a given project.

But I also find that sometimes, emotions are so fleeting, that they are totally unreliable. That in order to suss out whether or not an emotion-driven choice is rational and won’t wreak havoc beyond your ability to foresee the consequences, you need to allocate time to give an important decision serious consideration.


Absolut vs Smirnoff

Here’s a new piece for the Resurfaced series. An old friend in L.A. is often wakeful and finds it difficult to fall asleep. The time difference is mostly to my advantage, from a chat perspective, but I worry that the sleep deficit is harmful.

I sleep relatively well nowadays. For several years I’ve used podcasts to help me relax and in due course, fall to sleep. Sometimes, I’ll wake up after a short while, frustrated that the podcast hosts won’t allow me to share my opinion verbally on their show.

One trick that I used to do to fall asleep is map neighborhoods where I’ve lived. The one area I returned to with great frequency was in West Hollywood and the general vicinity where I grew up, hung out, or walked through on my way to or back from somewhere.

I would start along Santa Monica Boulevard going east and then west, visualizing all the buildings, stores, shops, and places I can recall. Then, if that didn’t put me to sleep, I’d map La Cienega Boulevard starting from Sunset and going down what must still be one of L.A.’s steepest hills, then heading south until my personal map starts moving into unfamiliar territory. I haven’t lived in that part of L.A. since 1978, more than forty years ago. So it’s fascinating that I still have such vivid memories of places like The Bowling Alley, John & Pete’s Liquor Store, Alan Hale’s The Lobster Barrel, The Melting Pot, 49 Steps, Rexall’s Drugstore, Norm’s, All America Burger, Pup n’ Tail, Kiddyland, the oil pumps on Beverly, and the row of art galleries and fine dining eateries around Melrose Place.

I remember one time when I was out alone at night (having been locked out of the house by my mother after yet another tumultuous conflict), that I saw what I believed to have been a prostitute on the southwest corner of La Cienega and Santa Monica. She had placed one of her shiny white boots on the edge of the bus stop’s green wooden bench. The woman was extraordinarily tall and wore a wide, black or dark brown hat and a long matching coat that revealed short white hot pants above her legs.

As a prepubescent 12-year old, I was beguiled to say the least. At first, the woman smiled coyly at me, but after realizing I was way too young, her smile shifted quickly to a disappointed, vacant gaze. Maybe she saw in me a version of her younger self and acknowledged that neither of us should be where we were at the time. Certainly not on Santa Monica Boulevard in the middle of the night. I walked home and snuck in through a window along the long side of our house, hoping that by then, my mother had finally fallen asleep. Her sleep was usually induced and fueled by Smirnoff, but I wonder if she had preferred Absolut if it had been available at the time. Probably not.


Sliperiet Gylsboda

While shooting for their book over the summer, I also did some filming, capturing a few unique scenes from the artists’ colony and cultural center Sliperiet Gylsboda. This short film is the result of my experiences.


Timelapse Malmö

Shot this from my room window this afternoon during another short overnight visit to Malmö. I’ve stayed at most of the bigger hotels in this city and last night I knocked the remaining big one off my list: Scandic Triangeln. I would have preferred a room higher up, but my request was denied since I had booked the room through one of Charlotte’s sites and not directly on the hotel’s reservation page. A petty policy, if you ask me.


After Party Sunday Sunset

Tired today after last night’s celebration for a friend named Jen that lives southeast of Malmö. We spent a restless night at a hotel, drove back up to Vejbystrand and arrived just in time to enjoy a long coastal walk in beautiful late summer weather. This was our view during Lenanrt’s evening walk.


Farewell Bengt Nielsen

Maybe I should have written this in Swedish. No, I don’t think he would have cared either way.

It was Charlotte that captured this shot of Bengt Nielsen and me during the unveiling of the five collages I was commissioned to create for Kockum Fritid, the sports center he was Managing Director for at the time and had worked at for the majority of his life.

About a week ago I learned from a friend and Bengt successor Magnus Steen that Bengt had succumbed to cancer. I hadn’t seen him since his retirement, but I’d known about the battle for several years. In our very last email exchange, Bengt told me about his poor health and how his cancer had metastasized.

Kockum Fritid has been the Raboff family’s preferred sports center and I’ve also been their supplier of film and photography services for about a decade.

Though my relationship with Bengt was purely professional, whenever we met, whenever I dropped by, he would almost always take time off from whatever he was doing to chat about this and that; from work to wine to family and, towards the end of his tenure, about the battle he was going through and trips he’d hope to be able to make with his wife despite decreasing health.

I’ll always remember Bengt Nielsen as one of the most unpretentious people I’ve ever met. Friendly, kind and generous with inspiring anecdotes from his life. R.I.P.