What, no jet lag? Nope. Can’t remember when I felt so relieved from not having to deal with at least a week filled with sleep disorder. Considering how ridiculously noisy the hotel we stayed at was, I actually feel more rested now that we’re home again than I did during the entire week in Bangkok.
I wrote a brutally honest and scathing review about our guest experiences over on TripAdvisor about the hotel. We tried to change hotels about half way through our stay at the Shama on Sukhumvit, but management forced a severe penalty on us for departing early.
Ironically, my critique will doubtlessly cost them considerably more than what they would of earned – had we paid them to switch hotels. Their strict policy is typical for a desperate hotel in decline. The only really good thing I can say about the property is that the view from the pool was sweet albeit far from spectacular.
I shot this a couple of years ago somewhere around the north east corner of Santa Monica – a mainly residential area within the city limits where well-kept streets are lined with small to medium sized mansions. One of the residents in one of the larger homes there works in the film industry and has for years pimped out the family’s garden and stretch of sidewalk with all kinds of goblins, ghosts and ghastly creatures. I really admire that “all-in” attitude.
Some interesting facts about this auspicious celebration from the History Channel’s website:
“Evolving from the ancient Celtic holiday of Samhain, modern Halloween has become less about literal ghosts and ghouls and more about costumes and candy. The Celts used the day to mark the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter, and also believed that this transition between the seasons was a bridge to the world of the dead. Over the millennia the holiday transitioned from a somber pagan ritual to a day of merriment, costumes, parades and sweet treats for children and adults.”
Surprisingly, I’ve barely listened to any of my podcast subscriptions while in Asia. Instead, for whatever reason, I’ve reacquainted myself with oldies but goodies – like the Swiss harp virtuoso, Andreas Vollenweider.
I’m actually streaming his album “White Winds” via Apple Music as I type this. And though I’ve not listened to Andreas string plucking for probably over 20 years, his music still sounds so timelessly fresh and curiously relevant.
Yesterday, after a visit to the gym, a bagel with salmon and cappuccino breakfast at one of Sukhumvit’s two Dean & Deluca branches (a well-known New York delicatessen brand interestingly enough now owned by a Thai property development corporation), the girls and I headed to the sprawling slum area of Klong Toey’s “Jet Sip Rai”.
Nobody knows for sure how many people live in this vast shanty town near the Chao Phraya River. I’ve heard estimates of over 100k – but that number could be easily underestimated. The area’s busy streets, narrow alleys and concrete paths which criss-cross Jet-Sip-Rai, are packed with people.
Most of the area’s inhabitants live out there lives here without any opportunity for social elevation. The majority live in simple shacks most without running water, proper ventilation and with their electricity needs coming from often haphazardly high-jacked power lines.
This is where our favorite charity, Hang on Hangers started five years ago. It’s where many teenage mothers and families live. Some of which now enjoy a relatively decent living thanks to the money they earn while making hangers and jewellery for Hang on Hangers. For some of the girls that help founder, Annika Jonasson and her staff, it means their children can get proper medical care and or attend school. For others, it means that teenage mothers can get treatment for drug abuse or stop working in go-go bars or massage parlors. The money they earn isn’t going to make them rich by any measure. But it will allow them to work from home.
While Elle and Charlotte visited Ms. Wasana and her daughter Fon (bedridden since birth with severe cerebral palsy), I filmed one of the staff during the process of turning a simple hanger into something that makes Hang on Hangers so unique; their beautifully hand-made, fabric clad, designer hangers.
The group photo above is from yesterday’s visit. Here’s a link to Hang on Hangers if you feel like visiting or donating.
Writing these very words while sitting on a huge white corner sofa in an apartment hotel on Soi 2 in the Thai capital, Bangkok – the city of Angels.
It’s five in the morning and impossible to know for sure if the noise coming from Sukhumvit Road below me is generated from late night or early morning traffic. There have been a few occasions with loud and boisterous laughter to remind me that I’m in a city that is never, ever quiet.
We arrived early yesterday morning with Norwegian’s direct (and mostly smooth) flight from Copenhagen. After an unusually long and tedious drive into downtown, we checked in, unpacked, showered and then headed out for a quick lunch at one of the city’s most well-known neighborhood eateries, Suda Restaurant on Soi 14 (BTS Asoke).
Needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway, food plays an almost ridiculously important part in Thai society. If for no other reason – and there are a plethora of honorable and morally justifiable reasons to visit this great city – Bangkok has quite possibly the most restaurants of any city in the world. The width and breadth of the selections is gargantuan.
The dishes offered at Suba are as simple and straightforward as the plastic, pastel colored plates and rickety tables it is served on. That’s not to say everything we ordered wasn’t amazingly tasty. It was. A bit spicy, but still full of harmoniously balanced flavours. I’ve never eaten anything remotely as good in Sweden, in the US or anywhere else. Thai food outside of Thailand just seems, well, counterfeit. Ironic, I know.
After an intense summer and fall of lugging around and handling heavy camera gear to location shoots both near and afar, my shoulders, neck and back have been in more or less constant pain. Maybe not really constant. But certainly nagging and reoccurring enough to warrant remedy. So, to kickstart what will hopefully be a quick fix, I began the week-long visit here with a two hour “Energize Me” session at Health Land – one of the city’s enormously popular massage and treatment centers. The above shot of one of Bangkok’s few remaining canals, or khlong in Thai, is from right outside Health Land near Asoke. Highly recommend a visit there. Great staff and a pleasantly relaxing locale.
Next on my to-do-list was ordering a pair of new prescription glasses at the – at least for me – utterly in-navigable and disturbingly disorienting Emporia Complex – adjacent to the Phrom Phong skytrain station. With my printed prescription in hand, that project took only about 30 minutes to conclude and my new pair of specs should arrive at the hotel on Friday.
Finally, before heading back to the apartment, we ate dinner at another favorite; ISAO Fusion, a small, almost indiscernible Japanse restaurant tucked away between massage parlours on Soi 31. When we lived here for a few spring months in 2013, we loved returning to ISAO where food, service and ambiance enjoy a perfect balance.
So, in addition to eating several great meals, taking care of aches and pains infused by my occupation, providing our shopping addicted daughter with some new garb (from Pratunam, not Siam Paragon), we are also here to provide our friend Annika Jonasson and her staff at the Hang on Hangers project with new photos, perhaps a few videos and eventually, an updated web site shop. Looking forward to this latter part of our week here immensely.
Late Saturday afternoon, I was invited to a conference at Malmö Live to sign the Turning Torso book I produced for HSB Malmö (the premier association for cooperative housing in Sweden) which is aptly titled, Turning Torso. At least a hundred people now own a signed copy of the blue coffee table book which commemorates the amazing skyscraper’s 10th anniversary and includes interviews with several residential and commercial tenants, interesting facts about the building, insights to some of its luxurious facilities, a few pages dedicated to Mr Turning Torso, the always congenial, Jan Andersson, and of course, a wide range of interior and exterior photographs by yours truly.
NOTE: ABOVE BOOK SIGNING PHOTO CREDIT: HSB MALMÖ
Already Friday. It’s been an eclectic week, to say the least. Here’s a taste of what I’ve been working on. Monday: interior photography at Clarion Hotel & Congress Malmö Live. Tuesday: Activity photography (gym and pool) at sports center Kockum Fritid. Wednesday: Filming a field test at BJ Trucks along a highway near Helsingborg for TerraNet AB. Thursday: Post production meeting with TerraNet AB prior to editing Wednesday’s field test footage. Friday: corporate studio photography and editing of a commercial for Sjobeck AB in Ystad.
Shot the above scene (with my pocket friendly Canon Gx7) tonight whilst strolling along the waterfront here in Västra Hamnen after dinner. Inspired by recent meals in New York, I made tempura fried fish tacos with coriander spiced salsa and a garlic infused guac.
I have to admit, after two inspiring back-to-back visits to the always inspiring New York City, it’s kind of hard to get back into “everyday Malmö mode” again. The New York vibe is hard to shake off! Having said that, I did enjoy a dash of genuine cosmopolitan ambiance during dinner at Clarion Malmö Live’s “Eatery” with friends this past Friday. Must of been our friends and the hilariously funny server, Stina, whom kept us laughing, fed us good food and saved our throats from drying out.
I’m pretty sure most everyone in Sweden is anxiously anticipating the inevitably forthcoming dark and dreary season. The colorless, DDR season, as I’ve come to define it. But right now, it’s still summer-like; mostly sunny skies, hardly any wind and the air is beautifully crisp and clear. So far, the Swedish autumn has been surprisingly endurable.
My calendar for October is filling up and I’ve got at least two commercials and a demo-documentary to produce before I fly off to Asia towards the end of the month for an exciting film assignment. And sometime in between then and now, a spanking new website must be populated and launched.
Listening constantly to Sam Smith on Apple Music – which I’ve finally decided to subscribe to – after years of denying Spotify room in my musical life. I’m such an Apple junkie.
Yesterday’s event at the United Nations HQ was a huge success. I feel tremendously proud to have been part of such an accomplished team from the Swedish Mission to the U.N. A team lead by the project’s manager, Lisa Laskaridis Sarmiento and an old friend from my years up in the Swedish arctic (Riksgränsen), Ingalena “Gnydia Stang” Bengtsson. I most definitely want to mention her younger sister, Ulrika Bengtsson, who kindly recommended me for the assignment in the first place.
Sure, there were some last minute challenges and a few glitches just minutes before the first guests appeared. That’s usually the case (especially here, where so many talk the walk but can’t walk the talk). But there was almost nothing we couldn’t solve with Swedish ingenuity, a pinch of stubbornness and good ‘ol American elbow grease. As Nelson Mandela so aptly put it, It always seems impossible until it’s done.
As the evening came to a close, just two supersonic hours after it began, I was introduced to Sweden’s Prime Minister, Stefan Löfven whom shook my hand vigorously and thanked me for my contribution. A most generous gesture, indeed.
It’s been an intense week of choosing, compiling and preparing all the images for large format printing, picking film clips, animating still images, finding music and editing time lapse footage of Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) and finally, transporting it all to New York City in two gigantic hockey bags. I have to admit that I’m both thankful and relieved that this important evening about our planet’s health, went so well. As the guests arrived, they were welcomed by H.M. Queen Silvia of Sweden who stood beside one of my 2 meter tall photos from Lapland. It’s not terribly likely that I will ever be in the same room as so many high level politicians and dignitaries, including the president of Brazil and Angela Merkel, prime minister of Germany.
After a hefty, smoked salmon bagel breakfast with a few friends from Sweden in Little Italy early-ish this morning, I went for a well-needed, 5 hour walk (with about 20 kilos of camera gear) across the Williamsburg Bridge, then along the old Brooklyn Naval Yard and finally over to Chinatown via the Manhattan Bridge. From there I walked more or less straight down to the South Street Seaport, close to my hotel. I’ve got a busy schedule tomorrow before my flight back to Europe and I hope to have time to shoot some new footage for my ongoing and ever-evolving art film project about this great city.
The arctic film.
My first six years of formal education was at Saint Victor’s Catholic Elementary School on Holloway Drive (merely a few blocks below legendary music mecca, Tower Records on the Sunset Strip). All of my teachers were nuns and as stiff as the sticks they used to reprimand most kids with – if for no better reason than to infuse us with a little dose of holy pain. So much for turning the other cheek, right?
One of the church’s head priests, an elderly monsignor who’s name has faded out of memory (mine), passed away during the years I attended. At his funeral, his red and black robed corpse was placed in beautifully decorated, open casket by the alter for all to look at. To this day, his is the only dead body I have ever seen or, been physically close enough to actually touch. I mention this in passing as today, when the event I’ve been working on for a week will take place, I will be heading to the U.N. – just hours after Pope Francis has left that very building for a non-denominational prayer at the Freedom Tower.
From last night’s gorgeous view of Brooklyn’s shoreline as seen from the East River. I’m kinda liking the Financial District after all. Staying has it’s perks.
My very first visit to New York City was sometime in late summer of 1986. I was heading out to L.A. and what turned out to be a short stint in Hollywood. The South Street Seaport had recently opened and was extremely popular among the Wall Street crowd – particularly after the bell rang on Fridays. The busy and smelly Fulton Fish Market was still there (in 2005, it moved to the South Bronx) and I spent an intense weekend hanging out with a couple of friends – Andy and Todd – two New Yorkers whom I’d met during the summer of 1983 while traveling across Europe on trains.
I was twenty three years old when I stepped off the plane at JFK in Queens, and within just a few hours, I was completely absorbed by New York City. Ed Koch was still mayor, Keith Haring was on the verge of breaking out as the first superstar graffiti artist and cocaine, ganja and crack was offered to me (if I remember correctly, it was usually in that order) literally everywhere. For good or for worse, the city back then was ten times edgier than today. Having said that, I really enjoy working here now that I don’t have to worry too much about whipping out a large camera. And if I really want edgy, I just have to take a train uptown to 125th Street (Harlem) or just about anywhere but Williamsburg in Brooklyn.
I’m surrounded by towering, glass skyscrapers filled with hundreds – if not thousands – of offices.
As I write this, around 6:30 a.m. (New York time), most of the buildings are still unlit – but it can only be a matter of minutes before people start filing into entrances, riding elevators, slipping into office chairs and taking on the day’s routines and challenges.
If I press the right side of my face hard up against the hotel room’s window pane, I can actually see a slice of the East River.
Never stayed in the Financial District before. Not overly excited about this part of Manhattan. Battery Park is nice as is the walkway along the Hudson over on the west side. But considering all that’s going on in the city this week, it just seemed practical to stay here – at least for the next couple of days – while I commute to the United Nations north of here.
Almost time for a New York breakfast. It’s been about two weeks since my last one.
One of the benefits of living in a relatively small city like Malmö, is that eventually you will find yourself somehow, someway connected to friends of friends, friends of business partners and friends of clients. Case in point: the star of the commercial I produced about two weeks ago for Nordic Choice latest property, Clarion Hotel & Congress Malmö Live, Kenneth “Ken Wegas” Wahlberg and I have now worked together on two additional projects. Most recently on the rooftop of the aforementioned hotel during an amazing sunset.
The freelancers universe is largely a mysterious place. Most of the territory is undiscovered and even seasoned voyagers will from time to time find themselves in the midst of the most extraordinary circumstances. That’s where I am right now. And so, in a few days, I will return to New York to work on a project for the Swedish Mission to the United Nations. The above picture has absolutely nothing to do with this post. I just think it’s pretty awesome.
From the surreal to the real. That’s one way of looking at it. Like all great cities I visit, there’s somewhat of a withdrawal once I get home. But unlike when I arrive in Malmö from, say, the extremely crowded Bangkok, returning from the busy but not nearly as densely populated New York City is far less dramatic. The transition just feels smoother, somehow.
I’ve stayed at about 30 different hotels on the island of Manhattan. This trip, I opted for a really new boutique hotel called, The Paul. The location was good, but even more importantly, the view from the hotel’s (unlocked and easily accessible) rooftop turned out to be absolutely fabulous. As an aficionado of just about all things New York, I’m always on the lookout for new vantage points where I can capture “behind the scene” views of the city. The Paul also offered a decent view of the Empire State Building on it’s front side.
Back in New York. Third time this year. In March it snowed. In May it was sunny but cool. Now, in September, it’s hot and sticky. Tropical, almost.
Thoroughly enjoyed an early morning film session along the Highline yesterday. And in the afternoon, I spent a few hours on Roosevelt Island. It seems as if I can’t get enough of that tram ride.
The Bengtsson Sisters invited me to a picnic later in the afternoon at lush Riverside Park where I met a bunch of friendly folk. Days like these are always long. But nowhere do I feel so creatively infused and cerebrally inspired. It must be all the interesting, high energy, individuals.
Tomorrow, I’ll be working at Sweden’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations. Never a dull moment in this town!
When you do what I do, it’s almost ridiculously hard to maintain equilibrium. I’m just too intrigued by my creative process to draw the line – to know when to call it a day. But the fact is, right now, I seem to have found just the right balance.
I’ve started training again and the subsequent endorphin boost I get after running 7k or more, is getting me through long hours of studio and location shooting.
It’s the end of yet another productive week with one TV commercial (TV4), a print folder, unveiling of my Turning Torso book and about a dozen or so other projects. Tomorrow, Charlotte and I are going to partake in the Midnight Run (10k) which starts about the same time as I usually head off to bed. Already looking forward to running next week while in New York for yet another gig. This time, at the Swedish Permanent Mission to the United Nations.
The picture above? Sami – the young son of Samer, my buddy and one of Malmö’s best chefs.
So today we celebrated the beautiful sculpture that evolved into an amazing skyscraper; Turning Torso. Delicious birthday cake, a great jazzband, a few speeches and ten daredevil base jumpers that descended from the roof, helped wow about 250 guests during the party.
Completed ten years ago today, the festivities, held right outside the Turning Torso’s main entrance, also celebrated the courage that HSB (the premiere cooperative housing association in Sweden) showed when they commissioned the Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava, to design it and then have the boldness to actually finance building it.
In late spring, I was assigned by HSB to produce a coffee table book about Turning Torso. The book, simply/aptly titled, “Turning Torso”, was unveiled today and contains, aside from exterior and interior images, several interviews and “home visits” with some of Turning Torso’s residential and commercial tenants.
The spanking new book is available at Galleri Västra Hamnen in the Turning Torso Gallery, right next to Turning Torso itself.
I’m not entirely comfortable seeing one of my cameras fly out over the ocean, but thanks to my buddy, the skilful quadcopter pilot, Axel Pandolfi Elmi, I was pretty relaxed as I triggered the shots whilst looking through a pair of goggles.
Bought new runners the other day. And since they need to be tried and tested prior to next week’s Midnight Run here in Malmö, I put them to the test for a 11k run this morning. I’ve always had a preference for Nike (Pegasus) when it comes to runners and Adidas (Stan Smith) for sneakers.
This morning’s run went surprisingly smooth and the weather conditions couldn’t have been better. Malmö is an ideal city to run in with plenty of parks and beautiful scenery. And since my knees don’t like running up or down stairs or hills, I’m extra appreciative of the fact that the city is pretty much flat as a pancake.
Started a new, three month assignment for a client Friday. I’ll be shooting multiple sports activities with several models of various ages and shapes – one of which was a former competitive swimmer (seen above). I shot with a few different lenses and for a few of the trickier takes, I used some lighting support. Most of my favorites were captured with a 400 mm lens from across the pool where the model was standing or swimming.