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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 anal-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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.