Here’s a film I produced about this time last year. It’s a montage/collage dedicated to Västra Hamnen in Malmö. There’s no plot or underlying theme other than it being entirely devoted to the sights and scenes in the neighborhood which we’ve called home since, well, depending on how you count, as far back as 2002.
I spent the better part of 15 years shooting stills and amassing footage from Västra Hamnen until one day, about two years ago, I realized that I couldn’t do it anymore. Bluntly put, the magic was gone. And so, a surprisingly long-lasting visual love affair had come to an end.
Several years ago, after completing yet another book (in a series of 10 about the area), I remember contemplating what it would be like if I did tire of documenting Västra Hamnen. I’d enjoyed some success and financial gain with my niche focus on the area. But what would it be like if I rode the wave too far? Would I run the risk of finding myself in such shallow water that I inevitably felt stranded creatively? Could I really get so fed up with my own enthusiasm, even though Västra Hamnen continued to expand and evolve, that I just plain quit?
When I published the film last year, we had just embarked on our odyssey to South East Asia where we ended up spending four months in Hoi An and Da Nang (Vietnam) and then two more in Malaga (Spain).
Neatly tucked away among all my camera equipment, clothes, shoes, toiletries, and containers with homemade ginger snus, was a mental list of important, yet ostensively unanswerable, existential questions:
What was the essential purpose of our trip? Would we find a different kind of happiness along the way now that the family unit was dispersed geographically? Could we redefine ourselves, our relationship, and maybe even our livelihoods at an entirely new place? Could we muster enough entrepreneurial spirit and have enough financial capacity to accomplish a relocation – without having to liquidate our assets or depleting our “rainy day” savings back home?
Today, those six months seem so, so distant. Above all, compounded with all that’s happened since the pandemic arrived on the scene, I realize now how carefree, despite the added existential layer, our trip was.
But truth be told, for me anyway, that half-year was also often tumultuous. Like a foreshadowing of things to come, i. e. the tsunami of chaos that began washing over us and the world in the spring of 2020. The irony here is that because of the immediate impact the virus had on our situation in Spain, we never needed to see how things played out or if we had answers to any of the aforementioned existential questions. In this sense, Covid-19 offered us (and many others) a way out of an existential predicament.
So, now we’re back where we started from about a year ago. And yeah… I’m having some readjustment issues. Bewilderment seems like an apt description of how I feel right now. Can I once again readjust to a location and a lifestyle that I felt had little more to offer me creatively and that while cushy and comfy, provided only the challenge of surviving everyday mundanities and trivialities? How do I avoid feeling like I’m stuck in the groove of an old scratchy record, doomed to loop eternally but with an increasingly audible, nagging noise?
We’ll see. I’m taking it day by day, knowing that from recent experiences, spread over the last few years, that it can take me a while to settle in on a new reality and work my way towards a harmonious existence. A subsistence where I can both appreciate what I have and self-generate enough creative challenges to keep me preoccupied and, ultimately, less focused on stuff that bores the hell out of me.