mailbox

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

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.

Resurfaced Wall

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.

agave plant

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.

The Rolling Stones

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.

IKEA Bag with cobblestone

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.

Behind the door

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.

Tokyo

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

Hanging Around

Two resurfaced pieces combined.

which switch 2021

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.

Sweden

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.

Sunday Blues

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.

Kockum Fritid Bengt Nielsen

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.

Afghanistan

Afghanistan

Years ago, I frequently took a cab to our favorite airport, Københavns Lufthavn. On several occasions, I had the same driver, a tall, slender man with a neatly kept beard,  a loosely hanging red scarf and a wide, gentle smile. He was a good-looking fellow that if I had to guess, came from somewhere in northern China, or, perhaps Mongolia.

As usual, I bombarded my driver with a spate of questions, the first being where he originally came from. As an immigrant myself, I’ve always felt legitimized to make such inquiries, even on a reasonably personal level, regardless really of wherever in the world I’ve taken a cab.

When my driver replied Afghanistan, I told him how his answer surprised me and that I had guessed somewhere many thousands of miles further northeast. Without taking his eyes off the road, the driver smiled and spent the rest of our time together enlightening me about Afghanistan’s many tribes and ethnicities.

As we neared the airport’s drop-off zone, he told me that my guess wasn’t too far off, that he in fact belonged to the Hazara tribe, which according to legend are descendants of Genghis Khan, the founder of the Mongol Empire.

Mongol soldiers swept through the region of what is today’s Afghanistan sometime during the 13th century. Wary from war, many of Genghis’ soldiers settled down and their Asiatic features and language – a dialect of Persian – set them apart from other tribes, including the predominant Pashtun.

Now that the Taliban have once again overtaken Afghanistan, a country shared by Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, Aimaq, Turkmen, Baloch, Pashai, Nuristani, Gujjar, Arab, Brahui, Qizilbash, Pamiri, Kyrgyz, Sadat, and many others, smaller tribes, I wonder if the medal-laden leadership at the Pentagon feel as embarrassingly incompetent as their Russian counterparts did when they abandoned Afghanistan back in February 1989. It boggles the mind how little is learned from history. From epic mistakes. From massive fuckups. How it took 2 trillion taxpayer dollars, twenty years and thousands if not tens of thousands of civillian and military casualites to realize that the endeavor was doomed to fail, that the strategy was flawed to begin with and it was only a matter of time before the zealots would return, is just incredible. So much tragedy. Eisenhower was so right when he warmed against the Military Industrial Complex. For they are the only winners.

23rd Anniversary

23rd Wedding Anniversary

On this auspicious day, 23 years ago, Charlotte and I were married at Brunnby Church near Mölle-by-the-Sea by the family priest Ola Stålnacke. The photo above was taken during our very first trip to Asia – the year before our memorable wedding on August 15, 1998. Both Charlotte and I had been to Southeast Asia before, but never together. This was also my very first time in India.

When I snapped this shot of her outside of our bungalow in Goa, it was very early in the morning and we’d just woken up after spending the better part of the previous evening and most of the night sick as dogs from eating grilled shrimp that had gone bad.

Our marriage is nearing a quarter of a century, which is a long time, no matter how you slice it. Yes, we’ve had our fair share of challenges and a few seemingly unsurmountable uphill treks. But when I think of all the good times, unforgettable adventures, and, most importantly, our ability to teamwork our way through tough patches, I realize that our relationship has always had a solid foundation built on love, trust, and loyalty.

We were both hard-core singles when we met sometime in the fall of 1996 and truth be told, both of us had more or less given up on the idea of starting a family. But once we’d committed to sharing life together and seeing where our pact would take us, as long as we had fun doing so, life evolved.  Just a couple of years later, we were blessed with Elle.

To this day, despite all kinds of weird shit going on in our world and on this troubled rock we share with everyone else, Charlotte and I still have a lot of fun and laugh a lot together, and, thankfully, at each other. Life as a concept is way too absurd not to laugh at oneself from time to time.

Happy Anniversary to us and to everybody that attended our wedding ceremony and the unforgettable party afterward.

Memory of Eva BendzHellström

Funeral & Mingle for Eva Bendz Hellström

Nothing reminds me more of my own mortality than on the rare occasion when I am invited to a funeral. I suppose the remainder will become more and more evidential the older I get.

Despite having several close family members pass away prematurely, as a concept, death still feels remarkably abstract and distant. Not that I don’t think about my own mortality almost every day, because I do. But I don’t fixate on it, or, let it steer the day’s agenda. Someone wiser has said that it’s healthy to think about death once a day. It keeps you humble about how great it is to be alive.

Yesterday’s funeral for a family friend, neighbor and Charlotte’s distant relative Eva Bendz Hellström was a celebration more than a sad affair. I didn’t know Eva very well but I have had the privilege of enjoying her humor, spontaneity, and enviable unpretentiousness.

Barkåkra church is both cozy and beautifully well-kept and the music and speeches held in her honor were both emotional and inspiring.

Eva’s children, Klara, Anna, Anders, and husband Bengt had arranged a joyful, celebratory after-church memory mingle in their garden.

Planet Earth

In Trouble: Planet Earth

Finally a new installment in my Resurfaced series. I haven’t been giving it much attention lately. Hope to remedy this soon. I honestly don’t remember where I shot this utility box. Possibly in Malmö. Maybe in Göteborg.

With the release of the United Nations pan-governmental climate report yesterday, one can either envision a forboding cataclysmic doomsday scenario or, see this as the beginning of the most exciting era to be a human. Either way, there’s no denying that planet Earth is in dire straits.

I prefer the latter position.

Why? Because the contents of said report, the urgency it proclaims, means we must now wholeheartedly embrace the climate crisis just to have a fighting chance at staving off the potentially devastating consequences of our neglect and ignorance – which means that a lot of really smart people will need to come up with some incredibly smart ideas very, very soon.

Then again, perhaps all everybody has to do is just sit down for a minute, take inventory of how we live our lives, and come to the reasonable conclusion and insight that we all actually have many of the required solutions within reach…

We went for a lovely long walk here in Vejbystrand yesterday evening. The day’s intense rainfall had finally ceased and a wonderful smell of fresh, robot-cut lawns permeated the air.

Not every house, but most of those we walked past had two rain-washed cars parked in driveways and under carports. All but a few of them were really fancy automobiles, some electric, others hybrid but most were fossil-fueled.

As we walked past the cavalcade of shiny vehicles, I thought to myself how difficult it’s going to be to legislate against leading a lifestyle that at least from a global warming perspective can’t be described as anything but excessive and collectively ruinous to the planet. The same goes for what we wear, what we drink and eat (contents and volume) as well with long-distance and regional travel.

The most optimistic scientists don’t think the problems at hand are unsurmountable. Demanding? Yes! Life-changing? Yes, for sure!

And this is what makes this era so exciting!

Being coerced verbally or legally into redefine so much of what we’ve taken for granted for so long is undoubtedly going to take a lot of effort. Especially for us lucky folk that live up here in northern Europe where we don’t much realize how rich we actually are.

I’ve said it before and now I’ll say it again. We’re going to need a lot of philosophers and psychologists to help us appreciate life with less.

I don’t have the faintest idea how we’re going to get where we need to be for the planet to cool down some. But I am looking forward to taking part in the master plan – however it rolls out.

I’ve been shifting gears, switching paths, and changing goals all my life. I wouldn’t have a hard time at all. You know what? The pandemic has been inadvertently helpful in getting me to appreciate more with less and feeling more content with what I have.

I don’t think many governments will take drastic action after this latest report. That would just lead to panic and more violent disruption. I mean, if so many people refuse to take a simple vaccine to help against Covid-19, just imagine the insanity if the EPA and other nation’s equivalent environmental agencies mandated against owning more than one car or shopping for H&M clothes more than once a quarter. Just conceptualize the havoc if you as a meat-lover could only eat steak, pork chop, or, fried chicken once a month? Weekend trip to Paris or London? Fuhgeddaboudit!

I do hope that countries like China and the US immediately close all operating and planned coal-fueled power plants. And more importantly, I sincerely hope that Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, and Larry Page – along with their teams backed up by us minions – use their spectacular brain power and formidable money muscle to help Earth get through this crisis.

Stora Hult Strand

Stora Hult Strand

I vividly remember the very first time I visited Stora Hult Strand in Vejbystrand. It was the spring of 1997 and Charlotte and I had been dating for about six months. After a night in Malmö, we made a quick pitstop at her summer house on our way back to Göteborg.

The ancient name of the area within the village of Vejbystrand where the family house sits is Stora Hult, which roughly translates into “the big forest”. There’s not much of a forest here today, though.

The image above is from last night at the beach in Stora Hult. The first time I walked along it, I remember thinking how wonderfully untouched it looked. Unlike any of the beaches I’d ever been to thus far, much of Stora Hult Strand was covered with seaweed, rocks, and driftwood. As we walked along the shoreline, a pungent smell from rotting seaweed lingered but didn’t disturb us at all.

Stora Hult Strand is unique and about as far as you can get from your typical postcard-perfect beaches in the Seychelles, on the Greek islands, in Spain, Hawaii, along Southern California’s coast, or South East Asia. And because it was so unapologetically natural, I thought it looked really exotic.

I was alone there last night. Most people were at home, sitting in front of the “tube”, utterly oblivious of the phenomenal scene playing out down by the sea. What a privilege it was.