Tuscany

Thanks to a friend, wine connoisseur and restauranteur Erik Schneider, I was invited to Tuscany to photograph for a few days in the Val d’Orcia region. The winery Cal d’Orcia, founded and operated by Count Cinzano (one of the family members that make and own the aperitif brand) hosted me for the week. Tuscany is as beautiful as I’d read about – and then some. And a completely different Italy than what I had seen in other regions of the country. Here’s a collection from the visit.


Istanbul

Been so busy lately, that I’ve totally forgot about updating the travel section. I’m giving it some attention now and in addition to the South Bronx and Tokyo, Istanbul went up yesterday. Politics aside, Istanbul is absolutely amazing and I’d love to return one day. If for no other reason, then for all the friendly folks I met during the weeklong visit a few years ago. If you look closely, you’ll see a plane taking off behind the Blue Mosque. More from Istanbul here.


Waiting for Spring

So, it turns out that we might not be getting any winter at all. We’ve only had a few hours of snow and few days with subzero temperatures. Nowhere near what the folks in New York have had to endure and continue to cope with. I hope now we can look forward to an early spring. Despite reasonable temperatures, mostly above zero, the cold and dry air has been unusually cold and dry.


Female Genital Mutilation
From a visit to a Maasai village in the Maasai Mara National Reserve a couple of years ago. As this was my first visit to the Mara, I wanted to visit what I was told would be an authentic Maasai village, however touristy and staged I assumed the experience was going to be.
 
While most villagers were kind and friendly, one of the young males, the fellow standing to the far left wearing a lion headdress, had a blatantly aggressive attitude. I wrote it off as a schtick, an act to emphasize his alpha male status among the other men (and me).
 
I couldn’t resist but ask about female genital mutilation (FGM) within the Masa communities. According to our guide, though still practiced, it was on the decline throughout this male-dominated society. 

After some research, I learned that traditionally, Maasai men won’t even consider marrying a young Maasai woman if she has not had her genitals circumcized. Only after going through this painful and often life-threatening ritual would women, mostly barely sexually mature young girls, be allowed to partake in cultural celebrations and have their future children considered legitimate.
 
Despite attempts to eradicate this horrific tradition, according to a 2018 United Nations estimate, because of population growth, the number of girls mutilated each year could rise from the current 3.9 million to 4.6 million by 2030. That’s roughly the entire population of women in a country like Sweden.
 
Central African Republic, Kenya, and Egypt top the list of culprits, but there are many other countries in Africa and Asia that practice Female Genital Mutilation including Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and India. In the Maldives, mutilating women’s genitals – as part of a coming of age ritual – is legal and therefore sanctioned by the government.
 
For all the good intentions and funding aimed at eradicating diseases like malaria, cholera, and aid going to other important causes, I really can’t understand how we in 2019 can accept that so many millions of women are forced to go through female genital mutilation. As a human, a man and a father to a daughter, I feel ashamed on behalf of all the men in the world that inflict this on women. And I feel really sad that we literally shy away from this issue.
 
Ridding the planet from such a senseless, brutal practice should be priority number one for all humanitarian NGOs as well as the UN and WHO.
 And we should all boycott countries that openly allow this torture.
 
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-singapore-fgm-asia-factbox-idUSKCN12D04E
 
https://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/topics/fgm/prevalence/en/

Kyoto’s Bamboo Forest

From the bamboo forest on the outskirts of Kyoto, Japan. I can’t put my finger on exactly why I’m so intrigued with the country, but I really love visiting Japan and hope to visit again sometime later this year. I suppose I say that about a lot of places, mostly because I’m constantly thinking about places I’ve been, some of which I wish to return to. Check out my collection of images from Tokyo/Kyoto here.


In the studio

I’ve been painting a lot recently. More than in a long, long time and it feels absolutely terrific. Especially recently when friendly, yet seemingly random customers have literally strolled in to the studio to buy one of my paintings.

Selling an art piece is the ultimate proof that what you’re doing, what you’ve created from nothing more than a white canvas, actually has some kind of right to exist – that the many hours spent working on it is appreciated to the degree for peope to spend some of their hard-earned, ridiculously high-taxed income on just to buy it from me and then hang it on a wall in their home. It spurs me to continue – just I am sure it does for almost every visual artist.


Friends Reunited

So here’s a few snapshots from last weekend’s reunion with my old buddies Tommy Sahlin, Joakim Eklund, Jonas Bratt and Lars Olemyr. Only a handful of people know me better than this troupe and an even smaller tribe can make me laugh as hard. Friend Erik Schneider (upper right square), a wine bar owner and sommelier par excellence joined us for a couple of hours of wine tasting before, during and after dinner. His contribution was much appreciated.


In action @taladnoi

Here’s a composite of two different images from the same afternoon in Bangkok. I had told photojournalist Thomas Engström and his wife Lena about a really funky area near Chinatown called Talad Noi that was literally filled with auto parts and invited them to join me on the tail end of a photo shoot I was doing there with a local model in a ballerina outfit.


Blast from the past: High School Hamlet

I just spent the weekend here in Malmö with four of my oldest friends from High School in Göteborg, just a couple of years after I moved from L.A.

Together with Lars Olemyr, Jonas Bratt, Joakim Eklund and Tommy Sahlin (whom I’ve known since 1975 when I from time to time visited Sweden), we’ve eaten and drunken well and enjoyed a plethora of ancient, yet nonetheless laughter triggering anecdotes as we strolled merrily down memory lane.

In addition to an introductory course to Qigong on the 54th floor of the Turning Torso and a visit to Ribersborgs Kallbadhus (a beautiful, rustic seaside bathhouse and restaurant), we also watched the above video.

Excuse the crappy quality, but for the initiated, this is an epic throwback to when we were cast in Jonas Bratt’s contemporary interpretation of William Shakespeare’s drama, Hamlet (where I play Horatio very badly). Yes, that’s younger me with curly hair holding Hamlet (played by Nicklas Giertta).


Summertime DJ Gig

There was a time when I was a fairly sought after disc-jockey. For a couple of years, before I grew tired of all the late nights and smoke-filled nightclubs, I toured southern Sweden with two CD cases brimming with what I still consider to be some of the best music ever recorded. Fundamentally, my preferred genre was soul and all the cousins therein – including soothing R&B, Funk and danceable Pop.

Once in while I’ll take on a gig if for no other reason to share my favorite tunes at a bar, restaurant and almost any place where good music is welcome. In about three months, if your in the vicinity of the restaurant above, you’ll likely hear a few delicately chosen tracks by Sam & Dave, Aretha, Marvin, Chaka and Blackness. Stay tuned for date and time.


New Piece

Naming my art pieces has always been  something I enjoy doing. This particular painting’s name comes from a mix of Kafka and actual Niigata koi fish that I saw swimming in a pond in Siem Reap last fall. Some of them were breaching the pond water and splashing about – as if they knew nothing of the gravity pulling them back in to the murky water or how limited their life would be should they succeed at jumping out of the water and onto the finely cut gravel where I stood and studied them.


Elle’s Driver’s License

Early this morning, Elle Ingrid Agnes Raboff, our 18 year old daughter, got her driver’s license with flying colors. That might not seem much of biggie if you’re in the US of A where the local DMV will issue a license without much fuss. But here in Sweden, to get behind the wheel of a car is a pretty big deal with an almost preposterous amount of traffic rules and regulations. Stuff you need to learn for both the theoretical test and then prove you comprehend during the practical examination – which takes place on busy urban streets and even busier highways.

So, Charlotte and I are super happy for Elle. And more importantly, extremely proud of our wonderful daughter!


New Art

This is a piece I finished a couple of days ago. It’s an acrylic painting on canvas (100 x 140 cm) where I’ve added elevating structure to the surface and made use of the repetitive window patterns to create an abstract landscape.

I call it the Turning Torso Conundrum to reflect how the building’s asymmetrical form and shape isn’t so easily defined or pigeon-holed. Which in turn is something I can easily relate to.


Back in the Box

I shot this self-portrait years ago in my old studio here in Malmö. At that time I was training Kick n’ Box at our local gym and sports center, Kockum Fritid, three times a week.

For reasons unbeknownst to me, the class was discontinued and since I didn’t feel like I wanted to spend the time going to and from a different sports center, I went back to running and working out at our gym, usually Mon-Wed-Fri from 06:00 am to 7:00 am.

This morning, for the first time in about a year, I was back at the gym at 06:00 am and spent about an hour working up a good sweat. Just before I left, I happened to notice that there was a full-size boxing bag hanging in one of the gym’s recently remodeled rooms. I have to admit that I got a little excited when I saw it and went looking for a pair of sparring gloves. With them strapped on, I then spent roughly 15 minutes punching away until my arms felt like they were filled with Jell-O. Going to try to create a balanced training regimen this spring – an equilibrium – that includes gym training, boxing and yoga. And maybe some swimming.


About Turning Torso

I call this piece “Calatravism”. It’s an abstract collage made from over 30 photographs of the Spanish architect, engineer and sculptor Santiago Calatrava’s skyscraper, Turning Torso located right here in Västra Hamnen. It’s one of my most popular pieces, especially when printed on thick acrylic, like the one hanging right now on display in my new studio.

If I step out of my studio and walk 20 feet to the left, I’ll have the magnificent Turning Torso right in front of me. It’s quite the sight. And where most skyscrapers are often Calatravaismanal-retentively symmetric, towering above us as monuments of our incorrigible hubris as well as physical insignificance, Calatrava’s contribution to Malmö’s skyline has a uniquely asymmetrical, organic, approachable feel to it. Which is likely why I’ve never tired of photographing and interpreting it.

Based on his marble sculpture, “Twisting Torso”, the 190 meter tall building was upon completion in 2005, the world’s first twisted skyscraper and continues to attract visitors from all over the world. I ride my bike past it almost every day and even when it’s pouring down, there’s almost always someone standing in front of the entrance, struggling frenetically to come up with an angle where the entire structure will fit within their smartphone’s screen.

For me, the Turning Torso serves as a consummate reminder, a mnemonic device to keep me bold and daring – and not wait around for things to happen on their own. For an artist, nothing could be more creatively catastrophic than slipping into the role of the passive bystander. Only when I act will there ever be a reaction.

I’ve had a long and amazing relationship with Turing Torso. In late 2014, I was commissioned by HSB Malmö, the cooperative that owns and operates the mostly residential building to produce a coffee table/interview book that would commemorate the 10 year anniversary. Turning-Torso-Jubileumsbok

But already back in 1999, just a year or so after moving from Göteborg to Malmö – and way before the skyscraper’s construction began – HSB hired me to shoot footage from several heights of Turning Torso while sitting in a harness of a helicopter.

The transformation that Malmö has gone through over the past two decades is remarkable and certainly noteworthy. Yes, there is still a lot of stuff that needs attention, including the devistatingly high crime rate, thoughtless and therefore mostly unsuccessful attempts at integrating immigrants into society and arguably one of the country’s worst inner-city traffic situations.

But not entirely unlike New Yorkers who live in a city that’s had to redefine itself time and time again, most folks in Malmö feel unapologetically proud of their city. In last week’s interview with a French TV team, I mentioned that it takes time for Malmöites to embrace change. But once they do, it’s nothing less than a love affair with no end.


Switzerland on my Mind

Speaking of skiing… I’m currently thinking of heading down (and then up) to Zermatt – my favorite alp village bar none – in a few weeks. Though by no means as easy to get to as Chamonix Zermatt has quite a few other benefits that I think by far out-way the logistical demands. And if you’re lucky, the train ride’s last hour, when it makes its ascend to Zermatt, is spectacularly beautiful.

The village itself is quaint, cozy and quiet as only electric mini-buses are allowed on the streets. Especially gorgeous are the ancient buildings know as “Hinterdorf” (rear village) with 30 or so traditionally constructed wooden barns and stables from the 16th and 18th centuries.

The slopes below the majestic Matterhorn are as one might expect in Switzerland, well-maintained and, more importantly, the mountains surrounding Zermatt with Monte Rosa being the highest, offer an almost infinite amount of off-piste options.

Now, given this isn’t exactly a budget-friendly destination. Zermatt is tucked away way up at 1600 meters, so you’ll unavoidably be paying more for the secluded location itself, and it’s still considered one of the alp’s most exclusive ski resorts. Not as exclusive as, say, Gstaad, but not far off. Still, I wouldn’t say that Zermatt is ridiculously expensive. Fact is, I’ve eaten, of all things, a few sushi meals there which were both well-made and reasonably priced.


Riksgränsen via Chamonix

It’s about this time of year when I start remembering what it was like to take the train or fly up to Lapland and start a new ski season at Hotel Riksgränsen.

As the train from Kiruna would pull away from the very last stop before the route’s final destination in Narvik (Norway), an almost eery silence would ensue. Only the muted sound of snow being compressed under my boots could be heard as I walked towards the hotel from the station. As soon as I passed under the railway tunnel, I’d turn left towards the small cluster of staff houses spread out at the foot of the mountain – one of which would be my home for the better part of the next five months.

This is the train station in Chamonix from last year’s visit for www.airlinestaffrates.com


Selfie on a Stick

However you slice it, the selfie culture is a global phenomena that doesn’t seem to be waning any time soon. As a photographer, I’ve always felt compelled to help folks I meet on the street to capture their epic vacation scene.

That doesn’t happen nearly as often today as most selfie people seem to prefer awkward angles and perspectives that distort. I’ve actually been turned down a few times when trying to be a good Samaritan. But thanks to the invention of the selfie stick, things may have gotten a little better.

Shot the above image a little more than a week ago on a street in Singapore.


Friends – the Gathering
In a few weeks, a quartet of my oldest buddies and I will be getting together face-to-face for the first time in almost a decade. We’re going to spend a couple of days at our place in Malmö and boy, have I’ve got some fun stuff lined up for that weekend! We’ve been friends for about 40 years now, but as life inescapably takes us in wildly different directions, our meetups are few and far between. At this pace, we might have 2 or 3 more gatherings before we stop recognizing each other…
 
Speaking of friends…
 
I just read that the sitcom Friends is one of the most popular shows on Netflix. That’s kinda weird, no? But what makes this really baffling is the age group of the viewers.
 
Turns out that Friends is super popular among young folks – mostly teenagers, none of which were born when the show’s finale aired on May 6, 2004 (and watched by a whopping 50 million people!).
 
Fun fact: apparently, each original Friends cast member earns close to $20 million/year in residuals, thanks to the show’s sustained popularity.
 
In a day and age when we rarely talk to each other over the phone, let alone meet up on a regular basis (for whatever reasons/excuses), it could be argued that when an almost ancient sitcom about a bunch of friends hanging out is still exceptionally popular among kids, teens and tweens, that it’s an indication or symptomatic of something gone awry.
 
Perhaps the very fabric of what makes human society so compelling, inspiring and dynamic is slowly being unraveled and replaced with pseudo-relationships and virtual friendships? I for one jump a little every time my phone rings these days. As if I’ve completely forgotten about that little handy functionality.
 
Now, I don’t want to come across as being this testy curmudgeon, ‘cause historically, there have been umpteen television shows which have literally hypnotized huge swaths of society on both sides of the Atlantic.
 
When I grew up, reruns of Hogan’s Heroes, I Love Lucy, Get Smart and even the quirky sitcom Gilligan’s Island, had me and most of my friends up way past our bedtime (I personally had an obsession with Mary Ann and Ginger as well as 99 and the Flying Nun – but not so much with Lucille Ball).
 
And The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and later Late Night With David Letterman certainly had an impact on millions. But this was obviously way before the Internet as we know it, decades prior to instant messaging, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Snapchat. TV, radio, and cinema were entertainment venues and complementary components in society. Not replacements for it.
 
I’d like to see polling that gives insight as to what exactly it is that the younger gens see in a show like Friends. Is it as simple as the affable and somewhat relatable characters? Can a teenager in 2019 really relate to a Chandler, a Joey, a Rachel, a Ross, a Phoebe or a Monica? Or, maybe it’s how the sextet together tackle more or less realistic life issues and overcome daily challenges as a fun-loving gang of cheeky, sarcasm strewing musketeers? Could Friends even be providing a kind of counseling and guidance to today’s always “on” generation?
 
It’s been a while, but I’ll easily admit to having watched the entire Friends series. I can even concede, albeit more reluctantly, that I’ve likely seen every single episode twice. Heck, I might as well own up to having watched several Friends specials and dozens of blooper reels. When our daughter Elle was younger, we’d watch a few episodes together on planes, trains and sometimes even instead of a bedtime story. There was something comforting about the show. And that’s exactly what makes its persistent popularity so phenomenally interesting.
 
I just looked on Amazon and you can actually buy the entire 10 seasons of Friends for less than $100. You’ll need a DVD player though, as the complete show is delivered in a box with 40 discs. Think I’ll stick to Netflix when I need a Friends fix. Or, just gather some good old buddies for some fun IRL.

Meanwhile in Malmö

Woke up this morning at a hotel in Copenhagen in a beautiful winter wonderland. And when we arrived this afternoon at Malmö Central Station, even more snow had fallen. I hope we get more. Much more.


New Property in Malmö: Aura

I shot this yesterday while shooting still images for one my clients latest properties here in Malmö. For January, the weather conditions couldn’t have been better. That said, I almost froze my fingers off while piloting the drone. Sounds strange coming from me, but I actually would like to see some snow now…a lot of snow.


Time Clocks Gone Bananas
I captured this last year during one of several invited visits to document what used to be Sweden’s most famous shipbuilding company, Kockums. In the next couple of years, much of the old factory area will be demolished and eventually replaced by shiny new buildings with spaces designated for cafés, shops, condos, and corporations.
 
Time Clock Gone Bananas
 
What intrigued me with this particular scene was not just that all the punch cards next to the time clock were gone, but also how the clock itself seems to have made an attempt to leave the wall – but failed and was caught in some kind of suspended animation.
 
Back in 1988, I worked a summer in Göteborg’s commercial harbor as an unloader. I was only employed to work on the port’s weekly arriving banana boats – large ships from Panama that without exception were in terrible shape. Huge rust-buckets, really.
 
Roughly twenty of us unloaders would board the ship and start picking up boxes of unripe, green bananas from within the hatches on the very top deck. Early each morning as the shift started, the ship’s permanent crew, mostly from the Philippines, stood somewhere high above and looked unabashedly down on us, all the while smoking filterless cigarettes non-stop.
 
During my short stint, the union had negotiated so that we were only allowed to work in 20-minute increments and then had to rest for the next 20. It might be hard to believe, but we somehow learned to fall asleep on banana boxes during those short breaks and wake up just in time for our team to start unloading again. This gig was so incredibly regulated by the union, that the company who had hired us replaced every last unloader just a couple of years later with a fully automated unloading system.
 
Working the “banana boats” was popular among artists, musicians, and academics back then. It also provided some kind of street cred. Stonefunkers and members of Black Ingvars and the Soundtrack of our Lives were among my co-workers.
 
For some reason, I can remember that each unloader handled on average 2000 boxes a day. At 18kg/box, that meant we lifted about 36 tons of bananas per shift. It was hard work but still fairly well-paid and if we were done ahead of schedule, we still got paid for the full day.
 
When boxes of ripe bananas appeared on the conveyer belt, which could happen several times during a shift, we got to take them home with us. As much as I enjoyed eating bananas, I could never go through a whole box of Chiquita, Uncle Tuca or Del Monte and usually traded them for some groceries at the neighborhood’s local convenience store.
 
What has completely escaped me from that summer job was whether or not there was a time clock. Since everything was so regulated, I can only assume that there just had to be punch cards. If there wasn’t, I’ve still had other jobs where I had to punch in and out before and after a shift. But after 20 years of self-employment, the concept seems otherworldly. Archaic, even.

Fujifilm XT-3

Back in town again after a few days of informal research in Singapore for a client. Had a very smooth ride back to Copenhagen via Helsinki with Finnair. After a few hours on the plane and at the Finnish airport, I almost overdosed on Marimekko designed napkins, pillowcases, toiletries bags and blankets.

Brought the new Fuji XT-3 and a couple of prime lenses (equivalent of a 24mm + 85mm) with me on the trip to see how well this new kit holds up in the weight vs quality arena. After about 8 months with the technically very capable A7III, I felt Sony’s operating system made it ridiculously difficult to execute creative ideas spontaneously. Couldn’t complain in regards to quality, but I think the camera has way too many options, customizable buttons and umpteen features that I never, ever used and which just got in the way or generated confusion.

Not only does the Fujifilm XT-3 offer a pleasing retro look and feel with lockable knobs and dials, it more importantly – and unlike the Sony – bestows me with an urge and therefore a creative incentive to actually pick up the camera and creative photographs.

The shot above is from last week’s short visit to Gardens by the Bay in Singapore.


Veggie Burrito at Piedra
Being a vegetarian/pescatarian is becoming a lot easier. As demand increases, more and more restaurants are offering succulent vegetarian options and fewer boring compromises have to made as a guest.
For today’s lunch I thoroughly enjoyed the above veggie burrito (zucchini, sweet potato, coriander, stir fried beans) at Piedra Negra, which must be one of Singapore’s most popular Tex-Mex cantinas. Okay, so maybe I shouldn’t have eaten so many of those deep-fried waffle fries. But man, were they crispy and tasty!
Not in this shot, but next to the burrito plate was this big-ass mortar filled with guacamole that a server made for me a la minute at the table. Needed some salt, but was pretty darn good, too.

Flowers in the Abstract

Shot these blue flowers and several other colorful bouquets at sidewalk florist on Beach Road the other day.

As a long-time admirer of artist Georgia O’Keeffe and her beautiful abstract, flower inspired paintings and drawings, I love looking at and photographing flowers from an abstract perspective.


Textures Tell Tales

When nothing else grabs my attention, I can easily inject inspiration by focusing – sometimes for several hours at a time – by photographing textures and patterns. Like this wood covered wall I discovered somewhere here in Singapore’s Bugis neighborhood the other day. Some of these abstracts will subsequently be incorporated in my collages. Textures and patterns tell tales in a subtle way. When I find delapitated wall with an interesting texture, or, a repetitive pattern that I feel inclined to capture, if only for a few moment, I’ll thinkabout how it came to be.


Fresh Green Air

Much of the Singapore I remember from my last visit, some 15 years ago, is thankfully still here. Not that I recognize myself. No way, José.

There’s clearly been enormous growth in all directions. Today, the country is vastly more architecturally diverse (than in 2001) and boasts a truly impressive skyline, a preposterously massive Ferris Wheel and, of course, the ginormous Marina Bay Sands.

Thankfully, the government has an admirable focus on the local ecology and there’s a multitude of new parks and green areas all over the center of the city. Which was one of the differences that made Singapore so unique when compared with most urban destinations in Asia. Many of which today are horrifically, arguably even lethally, polluted.

Despite relatively dense traffic, at least during rush hour, in S’pore, unlike Bangkok, Delhi, Beijing or Shanghai, you get to actually enjoy breathing outdoors.

Shot this during a walk in the amazing Gardens by the Bay.

 


Humidity vs Humility in S’pore

I’m humbled by all the friendly smiles from everyday folks I meet in South East Asia. I tend to forget about that aspect once I leave the continent. It’s not just those working in the service sector and hospitality industry that smile – which in all fairness is more or less part of their job description.

Practically everyone’s default facial expression here in Singapore leans towards smiling rather than frowning.  Which I’m convinced has a lot to do with the warm climate and relatively comfortable humidity level. Especially when compared to the cold and dry air we have in northern Europe this time of year – which tends to keep smiles away and eyes turned down.

It’s hard not to put on a smile when you interact with folks with a pleasant expression. A gleaming exception to this is observation is, however, when several of my fellow guests and I are waiting for one of our hotel’s stupid elevators to show up. Though I admit to having this weird thing for OTIS elevators, I’m completely oblivious to these amazing contraptions inner workings. But ignorant as I may be, my unwavering view is that there is something terribly wrong with the four elevators at this particular hotel (supplied by Hitachi). Not only do they take forever to arrive at whatever floor you’re on, the tell-tale lights and audible indicators beep and chime unsynchronized and entirely without relevance to where in the shaft they might be. And when the elevators do finally appear, you have about 2.5 seconds to jump in before the doors close – brutally fast and irreversibly. So if you hesitate the slightest, you might have to wait another 10 minutes before the next lift arrives.

Fortunately, I’ve discovered a nifty solution to my vertical travel woes. Turns out that right next to the elevator space – on each of the hotel’s 19 floors – is a door that leads to a room where the hotel’s two staff elevators are located. One of them is broken, but the other runs super fast and reliably without a hint of glitch. That’s the silver lining of this little report from Singapore.

I shot this orchard in a nearby garden yesterday.


Return to S’pore

Currently visiting Singapore for a few days of research on autonomous vehicles (AV:s). Flew in late yesterday afternoon on a Airbus 319 from Copenhagen. It’s been 16 years since my latest visit, so obviously much has changed. Especially the cityscape which now has probably 10 times as many skyscrapers as when I was here in 2002.

I’m staying in the Bugis neighborhood, an artsy, culinary and rustic areas named after the Buginese people from the Indonesian island of Surawese. Apparently, the Buginese were seafarers/pirates/traders that roamed the Singapore Straits before the arrival of the British. Won’t have much time to explore much of Bugis during my short sstay, but I do hope to be able to enjoy at least a meal there.


Swan Song

Yet another storm front is sweeping through southern Sweden today. I’m heading eastwards for an assignment. Hope for some better weather by my return on Saturday. Maybe we’ll even get some serious snowfall to lighten things up a bit.

Shot this short swan film a while back – just after the winter’s first snow and stabilizing cold front had arrived.


Fishy Message

You know that weird feeling of being watched? That’s what I felt last night here in Malmö while having sushi with a friend. After a few rolls, I panned up to my left and saw this big red tropical fish staring down at me. It was totally fixated and clearly focused on giving me a huge guilt trip. Maybe it’s time to give up sushi? Shots were taken with my phone in pretty horrible lighting conditions.


Beyond the Anti-Climax River

There’s always an anti-climax after a really fun trip. Especially when returning home this time of year. Precipitously exchanging sunny southern California for the frigid and mostly achromatic southern Sweden takes time readjust to. I keep forgetting this.

I used to think that the older I became, the more enlightened I would get. That all those dense tree rings packed with collated experiences are somehow neurally inter-connected, providing an arsenal of shiny insights, a subtle form of clairvoyance, to help me navigate through the maze of life.

I’m increasingly skeptical to this line of thought.

Unless you somehow remain in a perpetually motionless state (which may actually be the hidden key here), it seems that much of one’s acquired experiences are more or less inapplicable. At least when trying to figure out the really important stuff.

Maybe life’s just too fluid. Like floating downstream on a feisty river. Each set of rocks you managed to flow over or survive through are so unique, that what you’ve learned from previous encounters has marginal value. Which on the other hand keeps life unpredictably exciting. As long as there’s a reasonably long stretch of calmness in-between the string of rapids.

I can only deduce that the aforementioned river metaphor stems from the horror movie Bird Box which I saw last week.

I shot the tree trunk somewhere in the Hollywood Hills in 2017.

The Wall
Been thinking about this wall issue again. How can you not? In my travels, I’ve actually visited several of the world’s most famous/infamous walls – purpose-built to separate people.
 
The Iron Curtain (Germany)
Belfast’s Peace Wall (Northern Ireland)
The Great Wall (China
)
The West Bank Barrier (Israel/Palestine)
The Ring Wall of Visby (Sweden)

At best we can admire their architecture, engineering, and longevity.

But fundamentally, walls intended to separate people because of opposing beliefs, opinions and economic differences are nothing but proof of failure. Failure to focus on our commonality, and, ultimately our humanity. They are at best a quick fix but inevitably doomed to fall.


Return to Palisades Park

No trip to L.A. would feel complete without a visit to Palisades Park where I shot this aloe plant at. The park’s north end is on the border between Santa Monica and Pacific Palisades and it stretches thinly along the bluff above the Pacific Coast Highway and all the way down to the Santa Monica Pier sign. The park is meticulously maintained yet never, ever crowded. There are plenty of places for picnics, playing chess or shuffleboard. There’s even a camera obscura somewhere in the middle of the park.

When we were living in Santa Monica during the fall and winter of 2013-2014, Charlotte and I would either together or separately run the park’s entire length, then jog down to the end of the pier, cross over to the bike path and run up the stairs, take the bridge over PCH and then run up the walkway to Idaho Avenue where are apartment was. Can’t remember the distance, but it may be around 5k.

I didn’t run in the park during this last visit, but I did walk up and down its length all the while admiring the season’s spectacular flora. Though I’ve not seen any winter flowers here in Malmö, it’s still unusually green for January. #hopingforanearlyspring


L.A. Rooftop Planes

Back in Sweden again after an uneventful flight over the Atlantic and a short ride from Gatwick to Copenhagen. Saw a couple of pretty bad films on the way over, but one classic and seemingly always current, All the President’s Men with a very young Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford.

Shot this from the rooftop at H Hotel where we stayed our last night near the entrance to LAX.