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surfing-venice-beach

Surreal contrasts from Västra Hamnen to Venice Beach

The Pacific Ocean’s current was unusually powerful and though relatively fit, the strength in my arms just wasn’t enough to get me out of trouble this time. I’ll be the first to admit that I’d ventured out into what was literally way above my experience level. But when I looked out towards the reef that morning from the beach, it looked irresistibly surfable – with no signs of what turned out to be a dangerous current.

As the intense riptide and waves seemed to unite, both pulling me out and pushing my board sideways, closer for each wave to the reef’s razor sharp, jagged rocks, I really started panicking.

To gather strength for what felt like my final shot at escaping an inevitable and likely devastating collision, I laid my head flat against the surfboard, took a good look at how far I needed to move to be safely out of harm’s way, breathed deeply three or four times and then started paddling diagonally against the current using the tip of my board as a compass, pointed steadily towards the beach.

I’d been in Venice Beach for just a few days, filming for what will eventually become a documentary about the laid-back, southern California lifestyle that I’ve felt so, almost magnetically drawn to and creatively inspired by for as long as I can remember.

Some might argue that I’m on some kind of nostalgic voyage – a pointless mission to relive my youth’s most carefree memories. Sentimentality can be a vicious psychological toxin, there is no doubt about that. But in this case, I feel certain there is more to my motive of documenting life here than just simply nostalgia or a pathological obsession with the “good ol´ times”.

A key to my passion is doubtlessly my love of the ocean – which I’ve admittedly had a life-long affair with. Living in Malmö’s Västra Hamnen, literally by the sea, has therefor made perfect sense for over a decade. I’ve always felt that living close to the water adds a level of life quality that the practicality of urban life can’t compensate for. When the sky and sea converge at the horizon, I experience a profound vastness that in turn generates an immeasurably soothing, almost hypnotic influence – regardless of where I find myself looking at it.

Though I’ve seen the coastline from kayaks, different boats and stand up paddle boards, so far, I’ve never actually rode a wave here in Västra Hamnen. Surf-friendly waves in the shallow bay of Ribersborg are extremely rare. But who knows, a fall storm could, at least potentially, produce a few good rides and I’d love to give it a try one day. I have two boards waxed up and ready to go by our front door – not much more than 20 meters from the water.

From mid May, and usually almost every morning and evening during the summer months, I literally embrace a small sliver of the north Atlantic called, the Öresund Straits together with my neighbor and creative collaborator, the artist, Johan “Giovanni” Carlsten. Each spring, as the water slowly warms up, our swims become more and more enjoyable and we forgive and forget the long and windy winter months past.

As July is coming to an end soon, we have about another month of our almost ritualistic morning and evening swims ahead of us.

Meanwhile, back at Venice…

Exhausted and relieved, I obviously survived my dramatic surf adventure from mid June in L.A. If only just barely. Live and learn.

And for the remainder of my two week visit, I captured several hours of film clips with surfers, skateboarders and the colorful folks that make Venice Beach a uniquely eclectic and insistently interesting place to photograph and film. Hope to have time to begin editing the raw footage sometime this fall.

Reflections-Turning-Torso

Reflections: Turning Torso and Vincent van Gogh

Walked past one of Västra Hamnen’s growing number of office buildings this afternoon and couldn’t help but capture the image above. Turning Torso’s abstract reflection immediately reminded me of a famous Dutch artist…

A long, long time ago, during my art school years on the island of Gotland, like many young aspiring painters, I immersed myself in the creatively brilliant yet emotionally challenged life of Vincent van Gogh.

If you ask me, the artist created most of his masterpieces in and around Arles and the old part of town can still be reconginzed in several of van Gogh’s works from that period.

I’ve been to Arles, roughly 15 years ago and remember thoroughly enjoying the visit and exploring the ancient Roman ruins and flush flower fields just outside of town.

And tomorrow, I’ll be on my way to Provence and Arles, to photograph the wild horses of Camargue – and maybe a pink flamingo or two. And to celebrate my birthday.

Turning-Torso

How to get to the very top of the Turning Torso

While the elevator pushed upwards, smoothly, but nonetheless at what felt like rocket speed, the small TV monitor above the metal door failed miserably at grabbing my attention.

As I ascended, the seemingly random numbers on the control panel flew by; 1, 4, 9. 17, 26, 32, 48 and at last, level 54.

At almost 200 meters, I had finally reached the very top of the Turning Torso. The 54th is one of two beautifully decorated conference floors where for over a decade, hundreds of celebrities, political leaders and dignitaries from all over the world have had breakfast, lunch or dinner meetings – all the while enjoying spectacular views of Malmö – and across the Öresund Strait, the Danish capital, Copenhagen.

I’ve been well-acquainted with the Turning Torso for almost 15 years now. In fact, even before the very first cement trucks, tall cranes and bulldozers had arrived at the massive construction site, I was hired to fly in a helicopter and document the amazing panoramic views that residence would appreciate, once the building was completed.

Back then, I doubt if there were many people in Malmö that could have imagined how immensely significant a landmark the Turning Torso would eventually become or the magnitude of positive international PR the project would have on both the city itself and for Sweden.

In the late 1990s, Malmö was in pretty bad shape as the ship building industry and related businesses closed down – replaced only with a fathomless void and a deep-rooted identity crisis that seemed to paralyze many.

Thanks to the Öresund Bridge, the housing expo, “Bo01” and Turning Torso, as well as an underground commuter rail system and most recently, Malmö Live, Malmö has once again risen and become relevant again – and almost unimaginably attractive as a place to establish a business, study and live.

In 2005, after about four years, the architectural splendor called the Turning Torso, designed by the much-admired, yet often controversial Spanish painter, engineer and architect, Santiago Calatrava, was finally completed. It’s now been more than ten years since the very first residents moved in.

During last year’s celebration of the decade since being completed, the Turning Torso was recognized as the winner of the prestigious “10 Year Award from the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat” (CTBUH) in Chicago.

In addition to the internationally recognized prize, I was commissioned to produce a beautiful coffee table photo book with interviews of residence, images from their homes, a few interesting facts, stories of famous visitors and several of my favorite and most popular photos of the magnificent building.

I feel lucky to live so close to the Turning Torso – we actually see it from several of our home’s windows. And with my studio and gallery being literally feet away from the skyscraper’s lavish entrance, it’s hard to not pass by without feeling humbled by its beauty and in awe of its monumental size and intriguingly complex, asymmetrical design.

Since it first opened, I’ve been fortunate to have had several dozen assignments in and even on top of the Turning Torso. I’ve shot weddings, food and products from both the 53rd and 54th floors.

And though not freely accessible for non-residents, each summer, the good folks at Sky High Meetings open up their doors and welcome several groups of visitors to take the elevator up to the 53rd or 54th, enjoy the wide-reaching views and partake in a most thoughtful presentation by Jan “Mr. Turning Torso” Andersson, a gentleman who knows the building’s fascinating history, facts and engaging anecdotes better than anyone else on the planet.

As the Turning Torso is called home by several hundred residents, the amount of visitors and dates to visit is understandably limited.

But if you call today, chances are you too will be as mesmerized and impressed as I was on that very first day when I stepped out of the elevator and onto the 54th floor.

A visit to Sweden’s tallest skyscraper is a truly memorable experience. So, to make a reservation for the summer of 2016, please call:
+46(0)40-17 45 00.

Tickets cost SEK 195
(SEK 150 for HSB members).
Pay upon arrival with all major credit cards (except AMEX).

For more information about special needs, business meetings, conferences and private gatherings, please visit: skyhighmeetings.com/en

Vastra-Hamnen-Turning-Torso-007

How Västra Hamnen changed my life

One spring Sunday afternoon about 17 years ago, my wife and I went for our weekend rollerblade ride in what is now called Västra Hamnen.

At the time, we were living comfortably in a huge apartment in town, near Davidshalls Torg and had no plans whatsoever of moving.

Our ride began at the mouth of the canal that runs parallell to a dog park at Ribersborg Beach and we skated along the asphalt path adjacent to the coastline, all the way to the old heliport, where Dockan is now.

The year was 1999, so this took place way before the housing exhibit, “Bo01, City of Tomorrow”. The entire nameless area was pretty much undeveloped (aside from the  defunct SAAB factory) and as far as we knew – at least back then – abandoned and forgotten.

Two years later, during one of several visits to the aforementioned housing expo, we fell literally in love with the small, seaside district with all its intriguing, often quirky architecture, innovative garden and park concepts, thoughtful urban planning ideas and out-of-the-box solutions for how to solve the needs and wants of people living and working there.

A gradual epiphany came upon us and soon we realized how boring our old apartment was and how living in the clutter of downtown Malmö was no longer appealing. Instead, we were drawn to the idea of living close to the sea and enjoying more time out in the open spaces with many small parks and gently rounded hills along the very same path where we had skated years before. Being able to spend more time outdoors with our then young daughter, Elle, was also a key component in the decision process.

Our friends in Malmö thought we were absolutely crazy when we a year later revealed that we’d bought a small, grass-roofed, two story house in what had come to be nicknamed, “Bo01”.

And though the local press constantly put a negative spin on everything pertaining to Malmö’s newest residential area, we were still convinced that moving to Västra Hamnen was not just an outlandishly adventurous idea, but also a commitment that would eventually add value to both our lives and livelihood.

During the 15 years since we first arrived here, I’ve taken many thousands of images, produced a series of 11 popular books, 10 about Västra Hamnen and one dedicated to the amazing skyscraper, Turning Torso, and have had my photographs purchased by people and companies from all over the world.

My Facebook page, I Love Västra Hamnen, has nearly 15,000 fans – whom continuously encourage me to capture unique moments and new perspectives. And as of two years ago, Charlotte and I established a state-of-the-art photography studio and gallery next door to the Turning Torso by Green Matmarknad. Both spaces compliment my online web shop at www.gallerivastrahamnen.se where the vast majority of my high resolution images are archived and available for immediate purchase and download.

As a photographer, I don’t think there are many places in Sweden that could keep me so creatively inspired and challenged as Västra Hamnen has.

And despite not having as much time as in earlier years to document the ongoing expansion, I still always carry a competent pocket camera with me when I’m out and about here.

Whenever returning from assignments, regardless where, in Europe, Asia, Africa or America, Västra Hamnen still provides me with both some kind of spiritual solitude and creative sanctuary. When photographing here, I feel far from the often narrow creative briefs and at times extremely detailed art directions I commonly work within as a commercial photographer.

Here, I have the kind of freedom I am used to as an editorial photographer – with the added benefit of being able to enhance my impressions in post production. See, I have yet to experience a camera capable of fully recording what I see and more importantly, how I feel at the moment of capturing a landscape.

Västra Hamnen has certainly changed my life. Both personally and professionally. And as the district continues to grow with new neighborhoods and companies establishing business here, more and more people in Malmö and elsewhere aspire to either live or work here. Or, both. The quality of life here far exceeds anything I can possibly write or even photograph. It just has to be experienced. First hand.

Horses Vejbystrand

Morning Meadow

For whatever reason, I woke up super early today after 5-6 hours of good quality sleep. A peek out the window revealed a beautiful morning and so, I headed out to the meadow to capture the horses (which returned yesterday, just as mysteriously as they disappeared a week ago).

Postcard-Vejbystrand

Lillaro anno 2016

Of the world’s total population, only a small fraction of a single digit percentage can possibly know about, or, have ever heard of Vejbystrand. In a way, that’s a good thing.

Still, being someone that really enjoys inspiring people to travel and share some of my experiences from the places I love, I can’t help but encourage folks to visit us while we’re here in Vejbystrand.

And so, this past week has seen a lot of friends from Stockholm, Göteborg and Malmö drop by for lunch or dinner. Fact is, our social life is far richer here than back home where so much other stuff seems to dominate our lives. Like traveling…

cow vejbystrand

Horses vs Cows

For whatever logical or unearthly reason, the horses in front of our house are gone. One minute they were there, happily grazing, enjoying life and allowing me photograph them from time to time. Then one morning, as I headed out to the meadow to take advantage of the early sunlight, they’d just disappeared. Vanished.

The mystery has yet to be solved, but I worry not so much as my archive of horse images is chock full. And so, I can now focus on photographing and filming the plump cows in the adjacent pasture. How now, brown cow.

Vejbystrand

Whacked but Running

My right knee kept the pace slower than I had anticipated and my hips and thighs were a bit stiff, but after 2-3k, I was pretty much my old self and crossed the finish line after this morning’s 10k run in decent time. The stretch of beautifully wild land I ran along, is so-called common or, public, owned by the people, populated by grazing cows and horses and has a natural path for runners and walkers. I’ve run many places around the world. This is certainly one of my favorites. I captured the aerial shot a couple of years ago while shooting landscapes between Malmö and Ängelholm.

Apocalypse Now

If you’re at marginally interested in film, chances are you’ll have seen at least one of the several available versions of Apocalypse Now by director, Francis Ford Coppola, (the Godfather trilogy, Rumble Fish, American Graffiti) and an the all-star cast, including, Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper, Marlon Brando and Harrison Ford.

I re-watched Apocalypse Now just the other night, this time a reduxed version with several entirely new and expanded scenes, and was again blown away by fabulous acting performances, action sequences and sound design.  Couldn’t resist doing a little research and found that the epic film took a grueling 18 months to film – mostly deep in the jungles the Philippines – and some three years to edit and assemble.

I mention this only because during my research, I came across the above casual conversation between Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Sheen where they chat about some of the film production’s most challenging moments, meteorologically, emotionally and for Mr Sheen (whom suffered a heart attack during filming) physically

Wanna watch the entire film? Someone has uploaded it to Youtube here..

Peanut-Butter-Kung-Markatta

Porridge fitting for a rainy Sunday

The trick to a really tasty porridge is accompanying the rather bland crushed oats with a range of more flavorful ingredients.

Now, I don’t eat porridge everyday, but while here in the rustic countryside – where it’s been raining all night and the better part of the morning – a cold smoothie just couldn’t of hit the mark.

For this morning’s concoction I added walnuts, fresh ginger, banana, a teaspoon of honey, tablespoon of organic, unsweetened peanut butter, raisins, water, pinch of salt and a half a cup of coconut milk.  Needless to say (but I will anyway), today’s spiced up porridge was ludicrously good.

Side note: Kung Markatta is Sweden’s premiere producer of ecologically sound condiments, conserved legumes, beans, nuts and a whole slew of other foodstuff.

As cynical and greedy as the actors in the food industry indisputably are, Kung Markatta seems to be both one of the least dishonest and since 1983, certainly one of the most consistent players on the not-so-level playing field. Read their story here and decide for yourself.

Lilla-Ro-Surf-

Surf @ LILLARO

Halfway through our stay here in Stora Hult and it’s been the usual mixed bag of weather. After my two weeks under the sun in SoCal, I’m okay with it being a bit windy and chilly. As long as it doesn’t rain all day.

Today’s highlight was the annual “fika” at Lillaro Café with the always cheerful Eva, Palle and Lilly. Like most summers, 2016 has seen a few new additions – some of which I’ll include in my new Lillaro film.

Before leaving, Palle and I hung 15 of my new monochrome surf shots on one the cafés’ walls. Might be the easiest show I’ll ever produce… Directions to Lillaro – one of Sweden’s most unique and inspiring café’s here.

Eddie Harris: Live @ Montreaux

Charlotte, Elle and Theo have all gone out for the better part of the day. What a perfect opportunity for me to spin a few favorite albums by Eddie Harris & Co on this sunny albeit windy summer’s day.

 

Storm-Horse-Vejbystrand-Raboff-Photography

Storm Horse

Horses are mysterious creatures. Solemn, somehow. I love photographing them. Aside from the obvious challenge to capture horses at the right moment – with legs, tail and head composed in an interesting way – you also need to configure a backdrop that either adds context to the shot, or, encapsulates the moment emotionally. I took the above photo a few days ago as the current storm front was rolling in over Vejbystrand.

You have to have at least a basic understanding of Swedish to fully appreciate this fine product demonstration. I’ve actually ordered one from Amazon (UK). The gadget, not the presenter.

Vejbystrand-Stora-Hult-Horse

Stora Hult

Back in the countryside for a few weeks. While here, I’ll be casually working on one of my ongoing projects; documenting the ancient fishing village of Stora Hult in Vejbystrand.

First mentioned in writing back in 1524, Stora Hult is one many typical rural villages in southern Sweden where the sea and farmland converge in the most charming, picturesque way. I really love the unpretentious atmosphere and have been photographing and filming here for at least a decade – though much more coherently/cohesively in recent memory.

Even though only at best vaguely acquainted, folks out and about in Stora Hult tend to spontaneously greet each other with smiles and often times, a casual wave. I’ve experienced and enjoyed the same small town equable, approachable attitude in many other places – both in Sweden and elsewhere. And we actually enjoy a little of this in the increasingly eclectic Västra Hamnen, Malmö. Sometimes, when in the mood, I’ll even provoke passersby to react to my hellos and waves. But to be crass, in return, I’m usally only rewarded with a forced acknowledgment followed by a pinch of suspicion. As an American, I really feel contempt for people that aren’t generous with their smiles or, even worse, when they look at me as if I was either a deadly contagion or out to mug them. It’s certainly gotten better over the years, but even after living here for so long, I still find it hard to deal with the level of introversion and reservedness. It’s just so unnatural and unfriendly. As if the climate didn’t make it cold enough.

Vejbystrand is home to about 3000 permanent residents and probably as many holiday visitors that enjoy a week or two here during July and August. There’s a really nice library in “Downtown”, a small grocery store, a florist, hairdresser, couple of restaurants and not much more. Which is fine, really. I think narrowing down the choices is a good thing when you’re on a break from urban life.

Fortunately, as of last year, there is decently fast Internet speed to be enjoyed. While here in the relaxing countryside, it’s still good to keep connected with the world outside of Stora Hult.

Wristband – Paul Simon

Just one of many great tunes by the age defying, 75 year old Paul Simon who has yet another hit album, “Stranger to Stranger” under his belt. I’ve listened to Mr. Simon for as long as I can remember. And it’s so inspiring to listen to his intricately layered lyrical commentary on a wide range of relevant social topics. On this, what could be his very last studio album, the tunes are built upon gorgeous rhythms, feet stomping and hip swaying beats as well as beautiful, “Graceland” quality arrangements – all created in collaboration with, Cristiano Crisci, aka, Clap! Clap!, an Italian jazz musician, producer and DJ. Can’t recommend the album enough. Listen to some samples of it here.

Crayfish-Seafood-Raboff

Seafoodie

After visiting Iceland in April where the hotel’s restaurant had a 4 meter long photo of a fish hanging on a wall, a photography project started to take shape – about fish in general and seafood in particular. As far as I can remember, I’ve always enjoyed eating seafood – especially shrimp sandwiches – but after listening to this podcast, I may have to reconsider…

Anyway, about a month ago, I called Malmö’s most well-known fish and seafood restaurant to see if they could supply me with a few choice, specimen – preferably with the highest possible visual quality – for a project I was considering.

It took about a week for them to order all of what I needed and as soon as I got back to the studio with the chilled crab, lobster, crayfish and shrimp (and a few other critters that didn’t photograph so well), I began shooting them against both white and black backgrounds.

My seafood collection has now been printed on 850 x 1500 mm dibond (aluminium plates) and are currently on display at Galleri Västra Hamnen – together with a shrimp nigiri that I shot during a previous project.

What fascinates me most about these creatures, is how alien they look up close. Foreign and prehistoric, somehow. But also sculptural and un-organic – almost mechanical. That said, they tasted absolutely fabulous! I don’t get to eat my studio subjects that often.

surfing in venice beach

The Expedition

Back again after an intense but riveting, two week “expedition” that took me to unchartered – or, at least forgotten – places. Especially during the first week. I traveled alone and incognito.

My primary objective was to readjust/realign my life a bit. Acclimatizing to slo-mo from my usual, high paced work cadence – and all related consequences – took several days. I mean, not doing so much took time getting used to.

A part of my journey was to explore if my current eating regimen could be improved or, at least tweaked. This went surprisingly easy and so, during 14 days, I ate nothing but raw, organic, vegetarian food. No bread, no pasta or much refined stuff, whatsoever.

To minimize my caffeine intake, I drank only one cup of coffee a day and then only with unsweetened coconut milk served at a local café where I eventually only had to show up at the counter for the barista to reconginze me and begin preparing my coffee. I also stayed completely away from all kinds of alcohol and other widely/wildly available intoxicants.

Most of my days started at 05:00 with 30 minutes of meditation, followed by a few simple Qiqong exercises. After putting on my wetsuit, I walked down to the ocean to surf for an hour or two. During the rest of the day, I went on long walks, often 10-12 km without listening to music or podcasts.

Although almost immediately affected in a positive way from eating super-healthy food and oxygenizing my thoughts during many hours of outdoor exercise, defining, on the one hand, how life has been and then coming up with a strategy for how I want it to be, took the better part of my first week.

I devoted a ton of time to analyzing, taking inventory and identifying “cause and effect” of my actions and their consequences – writing down thoughts and verbally concretizing them. I became equally passionate with this investigation as I am whilst working on just about any of my photography projects.

I realized after a few days, that if I could only zoom out a bit, I’d likely be able to get a whole new perspective on my life and be able to see connections and intersections that are just to hard to discern when you’re deeply immersed in everyday living.

With my new, unique viewing distance, I started to see context, relationships and the repercussions of various recent events. I am deliberately vague here, but those who have journeyed into the strange yet fascinating territory of self-analysis, will surely understand what I mean and where I’m coming from.

A huge part of my mantra before leaving two weeks ago, was to keep my expectations reasonable. Having said that, I felt sure that just by virtue of the vast geographical distance and change of daily routines, I would at least enjoy favorable circumstances in which to wind down.

Deep down though, I hoped anyway, perhaps naively, that the break would also provide a new and more mindful way to look at how to live my life.

After the second or third day of surfing, I sat on my board early in the morning, waiting for the perfect wave. For whatever reason, at that very moment, this absolutely spot on metaphor emerged; the importance of identifying the right wave to pursue for the best possible ride.

I have a decent success rate these days, but still bet a little too often on the wrong wave. Which means I’m way too tired once the perfect set arrives.

Perhaps too obvious or even corny, but I found this to be a profoundly interesting parallel – one that could easily be applied to much in my life. So enthused am I about my creative life and creativity in general, that I often allow it to wipe me out.

Just as I try to become a better surfer by critically studying the quality of waves, so must I also analyze my many creative projects, both those I am commissioned and the ones I come up with and engage in with zeal and frenzy. Only by performing some kind of due diligence and concentrating on fewer but more inspiring – and therefore creatively developing – projects will I be able to take advantage of the daily surge of energy I generate in a more favorable way.

Less is more, as the cliché goes.

During the second week came further reflections and observations, though now more freely flowing – as meteors, almost.

Most significantly, I arrived at this tremendously profound insight: that for as many years as I can remember, I’ve put an extreme amount of pressure on myself. Pressure mostly based on proving my worth through performance. It’s like an endless olympic game where I participate in several analogous – but unsynchronized events. So entangled, embedded and engaged do I become, that I forget what’s really important; life beyond the camera, the monitor and the deadline.

I brought a minimum of stuff with me and just a few small cameras with me on the trip and I can’t remember taking a single still with any of them. This too took some time to get used to. To not only frame a scene but to then also let it go. So liberating.

Moving about, often aimlessly, almost drifting – without feeling the weight of a clunky, hulking camera bag that indirectly chose my route or mode of travel, was freedom far beyond my ability to describe it.

Not to mention how easy it was to stroll through busy airports and in and out of cramped airplane doors and cabin rows – without having much more than my smartphone,  boarding pass and passport in my pocket.

It took until the last 3-4 days of the “retreat” before my daily routine of meditation, practicing Qigong and my strict detox diet began to create this wonderful bubble of harmony that encapsulated both body and soul. Aside from a few short conversations with some locals, a lunch with a family friend and a couple of good chats with my cousin Laura, I was mostly in silent mode.

Way beyond my expectations, the trip exposed several valuable insights – most noteworthy was a reminder of the importance to have balance in life. I feel now that I have a sensible “action plan” to keep focused on the right kind of waves.

In a few days it’s off to Vejbystrand, a small fishing village along Bjärehalvön along the southwest coast of Sweden. There, among horses, cows, seals and some of Sweden’s most beautiful landscapes, the expedition continues …

Photo: Fredrik Jönsson (from Surf Safari 2015)

In Swedish

Tillbaka igen efter en intensiv men intressant “expedition” som varade i två veckor – varav första var klart tuffast.

Att vänja sig av med mitt normalt höga arbetstempo – och alla konsekvenser som hör till att jobba kanske lite för mycket – tog faktiskt flera dagar. Kände mig både stirrig och hade svårt att landa i att inte göra så mycket.

Lättare gick det, lite överraskande, med maten. Under 14 dagar åt jag inte något annat än rå, organisk, vegetarisk kost. Inget bröd, ingen pasta eller annan raffinerad föda. Har heller inte hällt i mig mer än en enda kopp kaffe om dagen. Den drack jag på morgonen tillsammans med osötad kokosmjölk på ett lokalt kafé. Jag har också helt avstått från alla former av alkohol och andra sätt att berusa mig på.

Dom flesta av dagarna började med uppstigning klockan 05:00 och sedan 30 minuter meditation följt av ett par enklare Qiqong-övningar. Därefter trädde jag på mig våtdräkten och knallade ner till havet för att surfa en timme eller två.

Även om min mentala hälsa så klart påverkats positivt av ovan träningsprogram och kosthållning, pågick den stora tungviktsmatchen mellan å ena sidan hur det har varit och hur jag vill att det skall bli, i helt andra sammanhang och situationer.

Dom tuffaste ronderna gick jag igenom under första veckan där nästan all vaken tid ägnades åt att analysera, inventera och identifiera orsak och verkan. Efter några dagar, började jag också skriva ned och verbalt konkretisera mina tankar och insikter. Jag zoomade helt enkelt ut en bra bit till det att jag hade någon slags satellitperspektiv.

Med mitt nya, unika betraktningsavstånd, kunde jag lättare se sammanhang, relationer och olika händelseförlopp. Jag är medvetet vag här, men dom som gjort en liknade upptäcktsresa/självanalys, förstår säkert hur jag menar.

Jag försökte verkligen ha rimligt ställda förväntningar innan jag reste iväg för två veckor sedan. Samtidigt kände jag på mig att bara den geografiska distansen och dom brutna rutinerna skulle skapa goda förutsättningar för att åtminstone få välbehövlig fysisk och mental vila. Innerst inne hoppades jag ändå, kanske lite naivt, att brytningen också skulle skapa grogrund för ett delvis nytt sätt att se på hur jag lever.

Efter andra eller tredje surfdagen, satt jag tidigt på morgonen och guppade på brädan och väntade ut den perfekta vågen. Det var någon gång under just den här stunden som det dök upp en alldeles klockren metafor; att i god tid identifiera vilken våg jag skall satsa på – och inte chansa på en som ändå inte har bärighet att lyfta och föra mig framåt – är bland det svåraste med surfningen.

Jag lyckas allt oftare, men fortfarande satsar jag lite för ofta på fel våg. Då far jag ibland runt i vågens eftermäle som en trasa i en våldsamt skakande, gigantisk tvättmaskin och måste sedan kämpa med precis allt jag har för att ta mig tillbaka ut till revet igen. Vilket i och för sig ger bra träning och erfarenhet, men ökar också risken att jag blir för trött för att kunna ge järnet när den optimala vågen – som kan ge mig en lång, härlig tur in mot stranden – dyker upp.

Det var just häri som det låg något mycket intressant och djuplodande – en parallell som kunde appliceras på min egen livssituation.

På samma sätt som jag försöker bli en bättre surfare genom att kritiskt granska vågornas kvalité, måste jag också bli väsentligt mycket bättre på att analysera mina projekt, både dom jag erhåller som uppdrag och dom jag själv skapar och sedan kastar mig över med stort iver och frenesi. Genom att satsa på färre men mer inspirerande – och därmed utvecklande projekt – kommer jag att kunna plöja ner en större mängd kreativitet och samtidigt utnyttja dygnets energiflöde på ett gynnsammare vis.

Less is more, som klyschan går.

Under andra veckan kom ytterligare funderingar och iakttagelser, fast nu mer fritt farande – som meteorer, nästan. Framförallt kom jag fram till en för mig kolossalt genomgripande insikt: att jag under många år satt extremt hög press på mig själv. Jag är inte längre så road av att tävla med andra. Men med mig själv pågår en ständig olympiad där jag deltar i flera parallella – men fullständigt osynkroniserade – tävlingsgrenar.

Detta är för mig en i allra högsta grad signifikant insikt – en som jag tror många kreativa delar med mig.

Den krassa kontentan är jag måste lägga band på min vilja att hela tiden tävla med mig själv om att leverera – till förmån för det som faktiskt pågår utanför min lite snäva, kreativa värld: livet.

På resan tog jag inte med mig mer än ett par småkameror och jag kan inte minnas att jag tog någon seriös stillbild med någon av dom överhuvudtaget.

Det var hur jobbigt som helst i början – men ganska snart väldigt befriande. Bara det att jag kunde förflytta mig ledigt och planlöst – vind för våg – utan att känna hur tyngden från en stor kameraväska indirekt valde färdväg eller färdsätt åt mig.

Och att vistas på stökiga flygplatser och in och ut ur trånga flygplansdörrar och gångar – utan att ha mycket mer än sin mobiltelefon, boardingkort och pass i fickan – ja, det var nästan overkligt.

Det tog fram till dom sista 3-4 dagarna innan surfningen, meditationen, Qigong-övningarna och min strikta detox-diet började skapa en slags holistisk harmoni i kropp och själ. Långt över mina förväntningar, skapade resan förutsättningar för flera värdefulla insikter – framförallt i hur viktigt det är med balans i livet. Och jag har nu en vettig “action plan” för att hålla mig till rätt slags våg.

Om några dagar bär det av till Sjömantorp i fiskebyn Vejbystrand vid havet utmed Bjärehalvön. Där, bland hästar, kor, sälar och nordvästra Skånes vackraste landskap, fortsätter expeditionen…

Foto: Fredrik Jönsson (från Surf Safari 2015)

mojo-surfer

Mojo Surfing

Gone surfing. Literally. Metaphorically, too. Not bringing much. No other computer than my phone. No other camera than what fits in the palm of my hand. No agenda aside from what might be the mother of all agendas; the search for mojo. Back in a couple of weeks.

Model shoot with Karolina

Femininity

In Sweden the “hen” debate is still raging on. I don’t get it. It’s a un-topic in my world. The only really interesting difference between men and women – and everything in-between – is purely physical. The emotional divergancies are there and that’s great. And as a dude, I’ve come to realize how much more in touch with their feelings gals are. In a evolutionary sense, woman are millennia ahead of most men.

We’re human and by virtue of that commonality, we should treat each other equally regardless of race, gender, physicality or sexual preferences. That men make more money than woman doing the same job is just another expression of oppression based on nothing else than a difference in sexuality. Same goes for all kinds of other discriminatory stigma still prevailing in our society. It seems as if the “Neanderthalian” worldview is still alive and kicking.

The slideshow, “Femininity” viewable under “Projects”, is a homage to the many beautiful women I have been fortunate enough to have photographed over the years. I would of really loved to have added my own daughter to this collection – she’s strong, smart and beautiful – and web shy.

Sundspromenaden

Homework

I’m pretty much an absentee employee of my own company these days. Still busy, just not from my ordinary workstation. With this amazing summer weather and an identical Mac editing system at home, I just don’t see the point of working in my new, but more or less windowless studio right now. So, while Charlotte is busy with her projects at our gallery, Galleri Västra Hamnen, the adjacent studio is empty and I’m just steps away from a refreshing swim in the ocean right outside our front door.

high on heels

High on Heels

Back in Malmö for a short spell. Time enough to get back on track with regular visits to the gym, a run, a morning dip in the Öresund but also a couple of new personal projects and commercial assignments.

A chef friend of mine has a bit of the, “Imelda Marcos Syndrome”. She has what may be an uncontrollable addiction to impossibly high heeled shoes. I find this fascinating and asked her to borrow a few pairs from her vast collection and then convinced another friend to model in them for me. Not exactly sure where this project is heading, but there’s something here, I’m sure.

Cinque Terre Vernazza

Lungo l’Italia in diretta!

I’ve enjoyed yet another primo Italian experience. Especially at base camp – in the Cinque Terre village of Monterosso, where the locals are super friendly, the food is great and it’s not too crowded. If you visit Monterosso, don’t miss the family owned Miky, one of the top ten Italian restaurants I’ve ever eaten at period. Their tuna tartar aperitivo and tuna steak portata principale are just marvelous. Great presentation and service, too.

I’ve now experienced the prologue to what will inevitably be a long, hot summer season with an endless tsunami of flag waving tourist groups, hiking stick clenching retirees and pizza craving Americans – arriving daily in the tens of thousands via trains, buses and cars from all over the world.

I caught a glimpse of how badly the hordes of visitors can behave a few times in two of the four visited villages, and it ain’t pretty. I honestly feel hesitant about even recommending a visit during this time of year. November would probably be considerably calmer and therefor a more enjoyable time to visit Cinque Terre.

The regional government in Liguria needs to put a quota in place to limit the amount of visitors here and by doing so, provide the spectacular beauty this place has to offer some well-needed space. I’ve heard that there are in fact talks of a quota – at least along the trails between villages – but I can only assume that greed is a strong, resilient opponent to limiting the amount of tourists.

I spent more or less ten years of my life working in the hotel and restaurant industry and so, wherever I travel, I try to make an effort to be a good ambassador – as both an American and a Swede. I aim simply to be the kind of guest that makes a good impression just by being genuinely friendly and polite. Simple enough.

Where many other visitors – primarily Germans and Americans – tend to be both boisterous and arrogantly demanding of locals working in the tourism industry, I’ll make an extra effort to show empathy and abide by the their way of doing things – a strategy that generally pays off really well. Like waiting to be seated as opposed to bulldozing my way into a restaurant or bar and expecting to be served pronto. Or, trying to greet and thank people in the local tongue instead of arrogantly assuming my language is the “lingua franca”.

I get that most Chinese tourists don’t have much experience at traveling abroad. And that they have an entirely different set of etiquette rules that dictate their social behavior – regardless of where they are geographically.

But the obnoxious attitude of many of my fellow countrymen I’ve encountered here, is nothing short of disgraceful. The old cliché about Americans being embarrassingly ignorant, boastful and deafeningly loud? It’s alive and well. In their defense, I suppose one could argue that the vast majority of Americans traveling abroad also come from rural parts of the country and that their over-the-top behavior is just a sign of insecurity. But when I think about it some more, the exaggerated behavior seems familiar, somehow. It’s really not too dissimilar from that of the next Republican presidential candidate.

Speaking of which, Louis CK has a few well-chosen words about Mr Trump. Get them here.

venazza

Vernazza, Italy

Currently in the midst of the picturesque villages along the breathtakingly beautiful Italian Riviera – a stretch of dramatic coastline in the Liguria region called Cinque Terre of western Italy. I’m here for a few days to shoot for a travel thing. Walked along a mostly steep, partially stepped path this morning from the village Monterosso al Mare to Vernazza – pictured above. If this place isn’t on your bucket list, it should be. The gentlemen in the collage were old friends, possibly old fisherman. As I walked by, I just couldn’t refuse asking them if it would be okay to take a group shot. Over the years, I’ve lost touch with most of my old buddies and these dudes reminded me of them.

clocktower gear

Clockwork

I’ve been lucky/fortunate/careful – take your pick – when it comes to my camera gear. It’s basically worked like clockwork. My pro gear, that is. The pocket/compact cameras aren’t built to last and either become technically obsolete within a few years, or, just break way beyond repair.

I committed to Canon’s digital pro gear a long time ago with the D30 and over the last 15 years, I’ve only had a single repair. And that happened just last week when focusing reliably with Canon’s formidable workhorse, the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM, started becoming increasingly unreliable.

Strangely, it was impossible to reproduce the faulty focusing in the studio and it was at only some focus lengths that images tended to look just slightly blurry.

Through my gold membership at CPS (Canon Professional Service) I was provided with an astonishingly expedient repair process and via Kamerateknik here in Malmö, my repaired/renovated/realigned lens could be securely bayoneted back onto the 5Ds again. within a mere week. That’s impressive service, indeed.

The image above from a bunch of gears atop the old clock tower in Vilnius, Lithuania. Shot with the almost pocketable Fuji x100s.

Karolina-02

Weekend in Vilnius

Spending the weekend shooting in Vilnius, Lithuania – the third of the Baltic nations that I’ve visited in the last few years. Hard to compare, but I’ve found folks here to be very friendly and helpful. The width of old town’s architecture alone makes Vilnius worth a visit.

Thanks to my buddy Yigit and his friend Erika and her preferred makeup artist, I was put in touch with Karolina, a young, amazingly talented model with just the right look and level of professionalism I was aiming for.

So, with a great model, Yigit as my enthusiastic assistant, perfect weather (soft, cloudy filtered light) and a brilliant location on a platform with abandoned train tracks below at Vilnius Central Station, today’s first shoot could not have come together in a better fashion.

Tofu Pasta

Tofuism

Nothing screams of spring louder than when every friggin’ dude in the hood with a Bbq starts grilling beef, pork and poultry practically every day of the week.

As much as I’ve enjoyed eating vegetarian cuisine for close to a year now, the smell from the neighborhood’s collective Bar-B-Quers is damn near torturous.

The shot above is from my lunch today at Green – created by yet another superb chef with impressive consistency, Johan Andersson. As good as it was to munch on grilled veggies, pasta, homemade pesto and deep fried tofu today, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I actually deeply long for a thin slice of lightly smoked ham with Dijon, a juicy, charcoal grilled burger decorated with a salty, kosher pickle and drenched in Hellman’s mayo and a side of coleslaw – or, why not just an inch thick, sirloin steak topped with a generous portion of Béarnaise.

Vegetarians dream of sheep. Grilled sheep.

jog pildamsparken

Run with the Sun

Once the weather turns for the better and the temperature eases into t-shirt weather, which it finally, finally, finally has here Skåne, I half kiddingly joke that all is forgiven. The winter, I mean – which was mild and relatively dry – but lingered unusually long and was nearly unbearably windy.

After a chock full weekend of activities including an art show, an opera premiere and then standing mostly indoors selling a bunch of studio props, furniture and photography gear from within the old studio, it was tremendously invigorating to go for an 11k run early this morning. It’s been a few weeks since my last run – I usually workout at the gym 2-3 times a week with jogging as part of my warmup – yet the run went extremely smooth with a few pauses a long the way – just to capture the gorgeous sunrise over Malmö. Yes, all is forgiven.

trucking company tires

Continental Tires

Last week, I was hired by one of the world’s leading tire manufacturers for two outdoor, advertorial shoots in southern Sweden. The theme was centered around testimonials from reps of two trucking companies – both heavy users of the brand’s winter tires.

As the assignment took place during late April in Sweden, achieving the right meteorological circumstances wasn’t too much of a problem. In fact, during the course of the day, my assistent Jakob and I had just about every kind of downfall known to man: rain, snow, sleet and hale. Fortunately, there were a few precious dry moments for the required portrait and landscape images.

Garage Sale

Garage Sale!

Finally, the renovation of our gallery and the move to the new studio is complete. There’s still a few minor adjustments and tweaks that need to be made before I’m entirely satisfied.

Since the new studio is a bit smaller, we’re having a studio blowout/garage sale this Saturday and Sunday between 11:00 a.m. and 05:00 p.m. to get rid of all the props and furniture that there just isn’t any room for. Some of which you can see above.