A Resurfaced piece from the multilayered city of Tirana, the vibrant and soulful capital of what used to be one of Europe’s most closed countries, Albania.
Like most folks, I have thoughts on the invasion of Ukraine. When I saw the woman above heading down into a subway station in Kyiv last fall, I thought she looked tired or perhaps sad. In my limited experience of Eastern Europe, melancholy seems to be a default state of mind for people my age. Not exactly a doomsday mentality, but rather one of a far dialed down optimism. Maybe it’s just stoicism. After all, folks that have lived under the harsh, repressive edict of Communism, its bombastic propaganda, and a constant threat of a nuclear holocaust, are possibly always broken, somehow. Even decades after the tyranny was replaced with liberty, many still seem to carry a heavyweight upon their shoulders.
I wonder where that woman is today. What are her thoughts, her worries? Has she fled? Is she living in a basement right now with her family around her, wondering when the Russians will invade Kyiv? It’s so hard for me to fathom what the Ukrainians are going through right now. And even harder to grasp how this will end.
How can this be allowed to be going on just a couple of countries away from Sweden?
At what point does the world collectively tell Putin that enough is enough? How much destruction and death before the EU and the US stop this tyrant? It’s 2022, have we not evolved beyond this tribal mentality. Apparently not.
I am both flabbergasted and somehow fascinated at how the Russian leader has used the threat of nuclear weapons to stifle a military response from the west. What if this war had taken place in Poland or Germany? What if Putin had decided that he wanted back some of the former DDR?
This leads me to the inevitable question, is Ukraine a sacrificial lamb? Obviously a sovereign European nation worthy of defending against an invader. But clearly not important enough for Nato to take the risk of an escalation that could lead to WWIII. How will the warlord Putin ever be satisfied? Is it only once the world agrees to his crazy-ass demands?
To me it seems as if the nuclear deterrent that kept the world shivering throughout the Cold War is now being used as Putin’s spearhead while he attempts to annex even more of Ukraine:
“Don’t mess with me or I’ll nuke you guys back to the fucking stone age”.
This is what my view was this morning towards the Öresund Bridge with a beautiful, full moon over the body of water that lays between Denmark and Sweden. I don’t belive I’ve ever seen a warship pass by here and I sincerely hope I never will.
I call this piece “Resurfaced Kiruna”. Unsurprisingly, Kiruna, one of the world’s most famous mining towns, supplied me with a really interesting artifact for the Resurfaced project. After many, many years, the town is now in the final stages of moving from its current position to a new location. So I seriously doubt that this piece will evolve much further than what it looks like today. Which I’m fine with as it is so rich with layers upon layers of information.
Here’s a Resurfaced artifact from Kyiv, Ukraine that I captured last October. Today, the very surface just might be gone, bombed, or burned. Or, perhaps it is covered with anti-war notices or pro-invasion, Russian propaganda. In any case, for what it’s worth, I’m hoping that Putin soon realizes what he’s doing and retracts his invasion forces.
If you’re reading this and live in Sweden, you can support the refugees of Ukraina by donating to “Sverige för UNHCR” via Swish: 123 90 01 645
From my visit to the sprawling iron ore mines at Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara in Swedish Lapland. Before the tour, I’d been meaning to experience the mine for almost 35 years, which is when I visited Kiruna for the very first time on my way to Riksgränsen. The mine tour offers a mindboggling experience, for sure. On any given day of the year, the mining company, state-owned LKAB, excavates enough iron to produce six full-sized Eiffel Towers.
These broken, dirty and partially limbless dolls are from a deserted school in northern Ukraine. While the school had long been deserted when I got there due to the radioactive fallout from the meltdown in Reactor IV at the Chernobyl Nuclear facility, to me they now also symbolize the plight of the children in Ukraine. It’s hard to discern how much their lives will be mentally, physically, and spiritually impacted, not to mention traumatized, from Putin’s brutal invasion.
I love that Ukraine’s national flower is the sunflower. Sunflowers are so incurably optimistic, which is a characteristic I can totally relate to on a personal level. Even when there are days without water, without sunshine, without much hope, sunflowers abide, stoically, patiently, surviving on the faith that a better tomorrow might actually arrive tomorrow. I hope this applies to the people of Ukraine. That they don’t give up. That they never give up. Some of these sunflowers were shot by a field in van Gogh’s Arles and some I grew in the garden in Vejbystrand last summer. I hope one day to be able to add a few Ukrainian sunflowers to my collection. #StandWithUkraine
And now I can imagine the trepidation of all those desperately wanting to flee their homes and livelihoods by trying to board trains bound for safer grounds in neighboring Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Moldova, and Romania…all because of megalomaniac Putin and his unprovoked, horrific aggression. Unsurprisingly, Vladimir has now also threatened Sweden and Finland militarily should we join Nato. How preposterously distorted can Putin’s worldview be? Apparently, Epically distorted. #StandWithUkraine
While Kyiv was under siege last night, I had dinner in Malmö with a friend at a Swedish restaurant that will soon change owners and serve Lebanese cuisine. The conversation fluttered back and forth, wonderfully boundless. We talked about Putin. Of course, we did. My friend asked me what the United States would have done if Russia had installed short-range missiles in Mexico? Had Biden kicked back and chilled? Hardly. My friend locked up and without wavering pressed on,
– But Joakim, don’t you think that the situation in Ukraine is reminiscent of the Cuban Missile Crisis?
I agreed. Then I took a few seconds and a deep sip of beer to gather my thoughts before saying,
– But the starting point, the Russians’ seemingly incurable, pathological wet dream of world domination is not “same same”. The United States only wants to dominate as long as it benefits American companies and prevents the spread of communism. The motives are plain to see. It’s not colonialism or a dictatorship fueled by insecurity and paranoia.
I can feel that I’m on a roll and continue, albeit somewhat hesitant about defending the country where I was born but have an increasingly difficult time relating to…
– The political system in the United States is lightyears from flawless, but it’s still considerably more transparent than the Russian has ever been. The Kremlin is just way better at whipping up nationalism and propagandizing myriads of myths.
My friend’s silence shouted agreement. We changed the topic to chat about art, traveling, and many other interesting things until it was time to pay the bill and leave.
The path back goes along slippery cold, desolate streets, many miles from Kyiv. Along the way, bright, flickering lights from living rooms with enormous television screens. I wander along the night’s gentle sea and let barely audible waves lull me home.
So, Putin invades Ukraine. The hotel I’m staying at is crowded with Polish guests. There are several high school classes and accompanying teachers from a city with far too many consonants in a row for me to try pronouncing. More importantly, however, is that the city they come from borders with Ukraine.
While the high school students are too young to remember what it was like to live under Brezhnev, Andropov, Cherneko, Gorbachev, and the boozer Yeltsin, I’m pretty sure the older teachers remember those grumpy old men far too well. Some of them may even consider that once Putin has annexed Ukraine, he might point his chubby index finger at Poland. And maybe then towards the Baltic countries. I get chills down my spine when I think about it.
A brief reminder: On September 29th, 1938, Hitler’s demand to annex Sudetenland, the German-speaking part of Czechoslovakia, was approved.
I feel a little nervous because Putin is so erratic. He has long had an unhealthy Stalin complex and the world’s history is filled with old men with various obsessions and hubris. It usually does not end well.
“Grumpy old men,” wrote a friend this morning after first sending the text “Damn fucking idiot!”, which I think is a fitting summary of Putin. As if it wasn’t enough with the pandemic, the climate crisis, and that Top Gun 2 won’t premier until May 27th…
The image above is from my visit last summer to Birkenau, the death camp near Krakow.
The above cranking, creaky gears belong to the clock movement in the belfry of the Vilnius Cathedral, the oldest clock and clocktower in the Lithuanian capital. It was installed waaaaay back in 1672. I can’t remember if I was there to photograph Karolina for a Swedish fashion brand or to oversee the production of a book.
While I was standing there, high up above the square in Old Town, I remember being fascinated by the ingenuity and craftsmanship of all those ancient, interacting gears and levers. But what was even more beguiling was considering why there was even a need to know the time of day back then. I mean, how would being made aware of whether it was 8:23 am or 9:12 am make a difference to the average person in Vilnius in the late 16th century?
Well, I’m back in Malmö again. Finishing up a rather large project and beginning another, smaller, albeit considerably more creatively challenging.
Here’s a new Resurfaced artifact, “Tbilisi 2022”. Sometimes when I write 2022, it’s hard to take in those numbers as this year. With so many twos, it just seems so futuristic.
While out on a long walk the other day, I thought of why over the last decade or so I’ve become so utterly fascinated, mesmerized even by just about anything ancient, old, and decrepit. Particularly the decrepit. Is it an aesthetic “self-alignment” to my own inevitable physical degradation? If that theory holds its own, then does it therefore essentially explain why when you are younger, that new and shiny stuff is more appealing as it is a more relevant reflection of oneself? In any case, the vintage door or gate above with its sturdy, unbranded lock, beckoned me to capture it.
Another capture from the Big Wave Surfing Competition in Nazaré. One of several new images from my visit there. All shot in color and converted to monochrome. I’ve been working on a book about surfing for several years and I’m not entirely sure if they should be added as an additional chapter, or if I perhaps now have all the images I need to start actually compiling it.
I just realized that the process of producing photographs for a book and painting a painting isn’t very dissimilar. At some point, you just have to call it quits, draw a line and probably stop using the collection phase as an excuse to continue procrastinating. I think I might just be there. I am not so much your typical procrastinator, but I am very easily distracted…but definitely need to work on maintaining focus on what’s important and less on superficial stuff that might provide some immediate gratification but that never really leaves you with a long-lasting feeling of accomplishment.
From an inspiring visit to Nazaré, the fishing village about two hours north of Lisbon and during the winter months, world famous host to Big Wave Surfing championships.
I’m not particularly picky when it comes to gelato. Fact is, I can pretty much enjoy just about any flavor and taste as long as it’s not rum or eggnog. Adding rum to gelato (or ice cream) is as bad as putting pineapple on a pizza or using canned tuna for a pasta dish. Culinary blasphemy, I say. If I had to choose one single flavor, I’d pick pistachio any day of the week.
In Lisbon, there’s an American fellow named Larry. Larry’s from New York where arguably some of the best gelatos can be bought, in no small way thanks to all the Italian Americans living there. Larry moved to Lisbon about four years ago to start an artisan gelato business. He’s got a couple of places now and judging from the line outside his Popbar parlor not too far from where we live, Larry’s doing just fine. His Popbar‘s pistachio gelato on a stick is phenomenally tasty. Gelato on a stick, you ask? Yup. Pretty neat, huh?
As I’ve been told, the main difference between gelato and ice cream is that ice cream, as the name implies, is made with more cream than milk. This means it’s already been fluffed up quite a bit and is filled with a lot more air (about 50% more) and contains more calories. Gelato, on the other hand, is made mostly with milk, which makes it denser and allows it to absorb more deliciousness from whatever flavor you use, all the while being less fatty. According to Larry, pound for pound, gelato is a much better deal for both your palate and your wallet.
So, if you’re in Lisbon, check out New York Larry’s Popbar. It’s another fine reason to visit this gorgeous city.
Captured this Resurfaced piece on my way to Lisbon’s art district Marvila.
From the somewhat related, like second cousins, documenting the Swedish Hoarder’s House yesterday morning was an intriguing albeit challenging experience, physically and mentally. It was my first, firsthand hoarder’s house, but I feel I’ve captured my visual impressions in both still imagery and filmed footage.
Generally speaking, I have my fair share of doubts. I think it’s part of the creative process, the evil twin or, the nagging parrot that tries to convince you of the utter irrelevancy and/or unimportance of your artistic expression. It can be a good thing, though. A necessary filter or gravity to keep the work as grounded as it should be.
I rarely feel any lingering doubt about the Resurfaced project. The work feels so real, tangible, accessible, and profoundly simple for it not to be worthy of the time I spend on it Much more so than any other art project in recent memory.