Whilst is moving

Since I'm already on the road I took the opportunity to move my blog as well. So whilst I'm watching the tsunami warning reports on japanese TV without understanding a thing I did a bit of clicking. All of a sudden I've started using another platform. Sorry to those few of you who actually read my ramblings but you'll will find me at www.pettercohen.wordpress.com from here on out.

Hope to see you there!

It's raining in Tokyo.

It's raining outside my window in Shin-Koiwa. I've just woken up after a late night surfing the news about the earth quake in Chile. Such tremendous forces at work underneath us. I spent the last few weeks in Sichuan, China that got hit real bad in 2008. The sheer destruction that is still visible there is still somewhat incomprehensible for me. And I have stood on the ridge over Beichuan city peering down into the empty ghost town. Nevertheless, I still can not fathom how it must be to experience such a catastrophic event.

It makes one think though on the extent of destructiveness that we can get caught in. In Chile the death toll seem to be far from the massive losses in Haiti according to the first reports. The news report on how Chile has been preparing for such an event for a long time and how this might have helped keeping the numbers down. We'll see in the days to come. In China, the government has vowed around 1 trillion yuan to rebuild. The events themselves are cataclysmic, they are natural disasters, but the responses to them and the situations before them are nothing but man made. And one also can not forget the post-situation and the effect that such a cataclysm have on people and on society, long lasting effect.

It's raining in Tokyo today; I imagine that heaven is weeping.

Beichuan, February 2010. The town lays in ruin as a reminder. A new Beichuan is built elsewhere


The old weak and pregnant

If you're old weak and pregnant at Chegndu airport you may sit here.

How to motivate your workers. No wonder the Chinese keep kicking the rest of the world's ass!

You think we got delayed? Fog and smog combined at Beijing Capital Airport is
a good way to keep two swedes and a bunch more a wee bit longer on Chinese
soil. Apparently the 1.3 billion already living there isn't enough.

Digital frenzy in Tokyo

I'm in Japan and obviously one has to go a bit insane with all the hi-tech mojos that are available. Nevertheless, it seems like the prices here are just as steep as in Sweden without the added comfort of a world wide warranty. But what is good with a tech frenzied population is that the second hand market is quite impressive. Which turned out well for me and I managed to do a killing on a Ricoh GrD-II. So now I have a little snapshot camera and it's seriously fun to shoot with it! I've only shot about 50 images so far but I honestly think I'm falling in love with the point and shoot style of photography. All of a sudden I just snap away at what I see not bothering to much with framing and such. The result, well that's another question. I'm sure I'll start framing my shots a bit more when the novelty of the snapping wear off. The only thing that concerns me a tiny bit right now is the noise levels on this happy little snapper. Well, maybe I shouldn't worry to much but having been used to shooting full frame dslr's, not to mention the medium format and once in a while some 4x5" film I can't say I'm overly impressed with these nail-sized censors of the point and shoots. Well I guess one can not get it all, or maybe I'm just exposing like a complete ass? Anyone that uses one of these thingies that can give some advice on how to get the noise level down a bit? Seriously, not even on ISO 200 is it really acceptable...or maybe as I suggested it's down to the guy with the finger on the levels, rings and small buttons?!

Here are some of my first tests with a point and shoot ever. Cropped them square as well just for the heck of it.

who's smart and who's the pro?

Sorry japanese schoolgirl but you asked for it!

Umbrellas. Only one other place have I seen so many umbrellas and that's in San Sebastián.
There they steal them as fast as they can though. You can leave your wallet on the table and it
will still be there when you return from the bar but you umbrella will be long gone. Here in
Tokyo you place your umbrella outside the restaurant when you eat and it's still there when
you've finished your meal half an hour later. Wicked!

Go window shopping somewhere else!


On the road again...

About three weeks ago I graduated, five days later I left Sweden. I've managed the first stint on this trip and I've left China behind me for the first time ever. Ok so maybe I'm making this a bit to complex. I should've just wrote "I left Sweden and I went to China". So that's what I did. Met up with my friend Björn who's not only a great guy but also quite knowledgeable about China and Japan. Which leads me to where I am right now, in Japan. Tokyo you have presented me with this years first notion of spring and I thank you for it. Now I hope you'll be just as amazing on every other aspect as well. I've got a month to figure you out and I doubt I'll manage to do it. Nevertheless, I hope we'll at least get along and that you'll reveal yourself to me in whatever fashion you wish.

Maybe I should say some things about China. Well, where should I start? I arrived at Beijing on the 10th of February. It was cold and I got to see the great wall from the flight. And that's about all I've seen of well known touristy spots in China so far. No, that's not entirely correct. I did pass that Olympic stadium, the one that looks like a bird's nest and thus colloquially named The Bird's Nest Stadium but is more officially known as the National Stadium but I digress...yeah I did pass that one by in a taxi from the airport. Basically I've seen two sights from a moving vehicle. Not good. On the other hand, I've got to see plenty of other things instead.

Anyway, we stayed in Beijing for a few days and then moved on to Sichuan and it's smoggy city Chengdu. We didn't see the pandas, we didn't see the irrigation system in Dujiangyan, we didn't see much of Sichuan to be honest, but we did roam about the small streets of Chengdu. And wow did we eat well! Sichuan is famous for it's cuisine and there's no doubt about that it's fame is well deserved. We didn't go to any famous hotpot places, we did in fact do our best not to end up at any hotpot place. Once again, might have been a mistake on our part, but then the food we found and the food we ate, by God it was good!...and hot. After our first dinner where we cockily decided to drop all safeguards against the Sichuan pepper, well we didn't do that mistake twice. I've never eaten anything that strong before. The funny thing is that it numbs your tongue, your lips are burning, your eyes are popping out andy you're coughing as a young boy taking his first drag from an unfiltered Gauloises. Yet at the same time you feel all the different types of flavour. Nothing like it I say.

The next night we humbly asked for a bit less pepper.

Photographically I don't know what I'm doing. To be honest, I've dreamt for some years now of going back out on the road to travel and to photograph. I used to do it before I went into my pj studies. Now post my diploma, I feel very torn about it all. What the hell am I doing photographing in countries and cultures I hardly know anything about??? Well, I'm having a lot of fun. I meet wonderful people who share small bits and pieces of their life stories with me, and I learn tons. The last two weeks I've had to rely heavily on Björn for any type of communication. He speaks the languages. I don't. I can't make myself understood, and I can't understand what's being said to me. It's mind-blowingly infuriating and and really quite a learning experience for me. I love to hear my own voice and here I just listen to other voices not knowing what they actually say. So what can I say about these places and these often amazing people through my photography? Not a thing that would leave you more informed. But I think I've come up with a solution to this problem that I'm find my self brooding over. I've heard at times people using the phrase "if I can only reach one person, and make that person perceive the world differently then at least I've done something..." or something like it at least. Well I am sure that one person comes away from all this with new perspectives and with a wee bit of a change to his person. So if for nothing else, I'll just keep doing this for my own self.

Now a bit of rest before I must face Tokyo.

"The sparrow shits
upside down
--ah! my brain & eggs"

Allen Ginsberg (or so it's claimed)

"Hey, how are you doin?"


It starts to look like a tradition

Maybe I should just quit writing myself and just keep on referring you to others. Once again Asim Rafiqui writes so eloquently about things of great importance to photojournalism. I can only agree with him that it seems that the trade of photojournalism, of which I am a novice, is facing some great challenges:

"If photojournalism is struggling it is because it is trapped, mummified in a language and power relationships to its subjects that have remained unchanged in the face of a changing world and media space. Something new has to emerge to rejuvenate our work and our craft, but it is not multi-media or better digital cameras. It is a deep commitment to self-criticism and re-examination of the postures we adopt in the countries and communities we work in, and the traditional roles we have assumed for ourselves i.e. moral voice, messiah, witness, voice to the voiceless or any number of clichés." Asim Rafiqui

In the Swedish photo community there have been discussions about the photographs of Fabienne Cherisma who died 15 years old. She was shot to death by a police officer in Haiti. The photograph was taken by Paul Hansen, a well respected news photographer. Even so his photograph and thus his actions have been questioned on the grounds that the photographs differ from other photographs taken later. Maybe the challenge that Rafiqui talks about is as valid for us Swedish photographers as well? I don't doubt that Paul Hansen did everything correctly. Nonetheless, the fact that his work is questioned might be symptomatic of a trade that has lost or is about to loose its importance. Can we photographers do something to prevent or maybe I should say pre-empt this progression?

I agree with Rafiqui that photographers can play a vital role in allowing others to get a better understanding of the world. But what understanding do we provide now?

"The catastrophe in Haiti must be revealed and images go a some way towards doing it. But why must they be so relentlessly exploitative and not informative? Why must they reduce the victims even further, rather than show their courage and their strengths? Why must they be so relentlessly about us, our work, our courage and our ‘role’ instead of being about those who have to actually live through and build through this catastrophe? And why must they always be the same e.g. Kashmir earthquake to Kobe to Haiti it all just ends up one big dump of similar stuff? Why is it so distant, so aloof, so demeaning, so simple, so unthinking, " Asim Rafiqui

These are some of the questions I struggle with as I'm about to start making my life as a photojournalist. Sometimes I wonder about the futility, will I ever be able to create something of value? Something that will stand the test of time and that will not turn out to negate my intentions in the end. Well, I hope to struggle with these questions from here on out. I also hope that I will have the good sense to know that it's time to quit if I ever stop asking these questions about myself and my work.


Worthwhile reading

Today is my last day as a photojournalist student. Tomorrow I'll be a freelancer a.k.a. unemployed. The last few weeks have been spent back at school pondering our education and our internships. Drawing conclusions on how the industry works, thinking of our place as photographers in society; our use, our miss-use, and our own abuse. After a morning that has had a lot to do with busses leaving way too early (I can't have been late can I?), yet another inoculation, closed shops and some quick thinking on how to dress up for our 50's party at school tonight, and finally the normal scanning of blogs I've found a few post that are worthwhile reading. Jim at (Notes on) Politics, Theory & Photography linked to one of them: NY Times lensblog. Nothing new under the sun but always interesting to see some self reflectivity in the media, or at least at their blogs. And I must say that I start to like Christopher Andersson more and more. While he's not my favourite photographer I do respect his thinking a lot.

From one thing to another. Malin Foxdal's album Nattfjäril arrived in the mail yesterday. Not only does it sound amazing it looks rather nice as well, if I may say so myself.

Another thing that I've been busy with the last few days is putting together a portfolio. Not really happy about it. I feel I've come a long way since I started out but I've got lightyears to go. I still battle over how I want to represent myself. What type of photographer do I want to promote myself as? Anyway, I've got plenty of more thinking to do before I feel satisfied. Hopefully I'll be dead before I settle on anything, you know. No morbid "I'll die while shooting" or so, but wouldn't it be fantastic to go through life curious as hell and being open to all?!

Here is one photograph from last year that currently is the opening shot in the little thing I call portfolio:

Magnus Nilsson, CEO at Kolmården's Wildlife Park.


Another singer in b/w

Better get all this b/w out of my system. Anna is Malin's younger sister and is also a singer. She's also into cognitive behavioral therapy which seems to be the shit these days. I will probably need therapy sooner or later. Or maybe not.

Anna Foxdal in central Stockholm, 2008

On another note my friends over at Nybohovs special has taken up internet bashing which is sort of amusing. They're getting kicked out of their bachelors pad which is sort of sad for them though their neighbours must be jubilant. Well well, small boys will always be small boys. They will probably settle down and grow up at one point or another but judging from their culinary escapades I'd say they won't leave the kids table for quite some time.

More B/W???

I really ought to put together my portfolio for a portfolio review on thursday. Not editing and doing post on some old shots. But when I found the pic on the left on one of my hard drives, I couldn't really help myself. Funny thing though is that when I shot it I didn't like it much. I didn't think it matched Elias'music and style. So this is an outtake. I shot the photos for a school assignment and I got slaughtered on it. Now, two years later, it really start to match a tone that I feel has become slightly more present in Elias' music. I can hear him maturing through his music.

The picture to the right is even older. I've photographed him for some years now. Don't know if it will turn in to anything. Maybe it's just a few pics of a friend, maybe it'll be something bigger. I like it as it is right now which means that every once in a while I snap a few shots of my mate.

Elias is soon to come out with a new album. I'm looking forward to hearing it. Sadly I'll miss his release party since I'm about to head out on the road for a while. I'm Leaving Sweden on the 9th of February and it will be absolutely superb! I'll post more on that when the time comes.

On the left: Elias rehearsing in Stockholm with his bandthe wizzkids, early 2008.
On the right: Elias a few hours before a concert in Malmö, August 2007.