Wednesday, 31 December 2014

A SHIP HAS LANDED


A year goes to its end, a year full of challenging tasks from my part. Why challenging? To answer that question, I have to go back in time, to spring 2008.

Back then, I was in a quandary: should I retire from my position at the EU Commission in Brussels? My ordinary retirement date would be 31 December 2009, but why wait so long? Moreover, given that I could retire earlier, what should I do with the seemingly endless spare time that I would be facing, stretching at least five years into the future?

To make a long story short, I decided to leave work in May 2008, since I felt I was still in reasonable shape and ready to take on new tasks. The main task I had in mind was to take count of my challenging life as European migrant and to report back my findings to a (hopefully) interested public. For that I had to re-invent myself as digital photographer and designer as well as author, since I felt the urge  to make something of the thousands of negatives that had been resting peacefully in cupboards, awaiting their ascension to pictures in print.


Once the decision was made, I scheduled an appointment with the Head of the Commission's Unit for Capital Movements and Financial Integration, where I had spent my last working years. Into his room I strode, with a big photographic book in tow. It was a rather heavy tome, called "Ansel Adams at 100", the ultimate retrospective of a famous photographer who happened to be my spiritual mentor. With a heavy "thud" the tome landed on his desk and he was rather surprised to see it. When I opened the book, he was amazed further to note two of my own pictures inter-leaved on the mid-spread.

I asked him whether he thought that my pictures would deserve to be placed in a tome like that. He was too polite to say "No!", so I immediately followed up by stating that I had the intention to produce a book like Ansel's, but that it would take me at least five years to do so. Finally I asked his understanding that I had to leave the Commission forthwith, in order to finalize this great project within the life-span that remained to me.

The Head of Unit was flabbergasted and sorry to see me leave, but I was quite satisfied to have managed a grand exit. Since that day, I have spent an unordinary amount of time on this project. I am glad to say that I eventually got my act together and managed at long last to see this project to its fruition. On the desk in front of me lies now a manuscript containing some 60 pages of tales from the two cities – Stockholm and Brussels – where I spent most of my life as grown-up, inter-leaved with some 120 pictures I have taken there during my life-time. Once printed, this will turn out as a tome as heavy as "Ansel Adams at 100", quality comparisons aside ;–)


I should be a happy man, were it not for the small matter of financing! High quality printing of black/white photographs is very expensive. So some time will have to be spent after New Year to find sponsors for the "grande oeuvre". I will be looking for organisations or agencies willing to share part of the printing costs and who will receive, as reward, a commensurate number of copies, to distribute to their contacts. All good ideas in that regard from you kind readers are of course welcome!

UPPDATE: The finished book can now, from abroad, be ordered from my website emsvision.com. Swedish readers can buy it from BOKUS or Liten Upplaga.

But why worry about the future? There are more imminent pleasures to savour! New Year is approaching with "Siebenmeilenstiefeln". The champagne is in the cooler; snacks already on the table; neighbors are gathering on their balconies; and some timid sparks of light are announcing the great spectacle of a firework, which we are privileged to admire over Hammarby Sound whilst another year is taking its first timid steps. So let me take this occasion to wish all the hardy readers of this blog:


A very Happy 2015!


Friday, 19 September 2014

FOGGY BOTTOMS AGAIN!

Sailing ship in fog on Hammarby Quay

As autumn is approaching, we are experiencing a nice interlude, usually called Indian Summer. Even now, in the second half of September, temperature lies around 20° C in mid-day. This is not the ordinary way of life here, although it now occurs for the second time in a row. You may recall the blog post Aurora's last pink laces from just a year ago, with similar weather conditions. 

This rare post-Summer phenomenon is caused by a persisting High on the continent, which is shielding off Sweden from cooler air, encroaching on us from the Atlantic West. Of course, high atmospheric pressure this time of year cannot prevent Stockholm from cooling off considerably after the sun is setting, which it does earlier and earlier in autumn. As a result, day warmth is accompanied by heavy morning fog, which takes a couple of hours for the sun to chase off, for nice weather to re-appear around mid-day.

Fog over Hammarby Sound

Come to think of it, the fog clearing and letting through the sun provides me with a suitable metaphor for considering various conditions in life. Is it not often the case that we fumble around in foggy circumstances, not really knowing what we are doing and where we are heading? And does it not happen, at rare occasions, that uncertainties suddenly dissolve and clarity of insight follows?

This need for clarity of course becomes the more pronounced the more we advance in age. Youth is mainly guided by instinct and drive. Or, to put it otherwise, even a blunt ax can fell a tree, if only applied often and vigorously enough. The exigency for sharpening arises for us old-timers, since pure force and endurance is no longer available.

The back-page of the Financial Times Weekend Edition, my favourite newspaper, comes to mind. Two columnists occupy this place of contemplation. One of them, a vigorous youngster, is ever busy with locating opportunities of improving the world and himself. His column is called The Fast Lane. The other writer, much older and more sedate, is in his column The Slow Lane ever looking and longing for clarity. I have to admit that I find the youngster more stimulating to read, maybe because he let's me re-discover a younger man in myself.

But, however we try and labour, there will come an end to all of us, bringing us ultimate clarity, I trust and hope.




Saturday, 16 August 2014

THANKS FOR SMALL GRACES


Looking out of the window this morning, I am greeted by this gray-on-gray scenery. Usually, it would be a cause for depression, but not this morning! Not so long ago, Stockholm was under the curse of sweltering heat, with temperatures approaching 35°(Celsius). Worse still, humidity was at the extreme, with all types of exercise a challenge for us old-timers. 

Fortunately, this demanding trial seems to have passed, and cooler tides are beckoning. Low pressure zones are queueing on the North Atlantic, eager to invade Scandinavia, one after another. But this is still Summer! Even if the mornings may start with black clouds, the days are pleasantly warm, letting the sun break through the clouds intermittently, to keep us in good mood and shape. We are not yet in November, when there may be weeks without the sun. Best to enjoy the warming rays whilst they are with us!



Friday, 11 July 2014

GOLD RULES!


I am gradually running out of themes for this blog, having written exactly 50 Chapters (including this one) up to now. But I will never run out of views, as can be seen above.

This morning, the sea gulls held a breakfast party outside my bedroom window. I sleep with windows open, especially in the summer heat we are having at present, with almost 30° in midday and above 20° even at midnight. So a chorus of shrieking gulls was a sure thing to force me out of bed. It was exactly 4 am and I lurched out to the balcony to admonish the damn birds. They all disappeared as soon as I appeared but, instead, I discovered that the sun had decided to show its face at that very instant. Back in to get my camera and, "Clapunck!", here it is, the picture of the week!

What has Gold to do with it, you may well ask. Well, I am not thinking of the price of that noble metal, even if it happens to be on the rise again, to please some of my friends who love to have it in their portfolio. I am a poor soul myself, with no funds to spare on such exquisite investments ;-) Instead, I am a photographer and as such hold the "Golden Rule" in high regard.

The picture above is a good example of this. You may notice that the sun is placed at the upperright third of it. Thus it is placed accruing to the "Golden Rule" which states that objects placed at upper right, upper left, lower right and lower left THIRDS of a picture demand special attention by the viewer. Something to keep in mind when portraying you loved ones with the iPhone!

On a completely different track, I have begun to worry about, how to organize a good 70 years' party. My birthday is late in December, so this would not work as a date. Instead, I have decided to postpone it to the Pentecost weekend (23-24 May 2015). Since I expect a sizable crowd to attend the event, I think I will invite everybody to a nice luncheon out in the Baltic, why not in Waxholm. But how to ship people there?

Whilst I was thinking about this last May, about a year before the event, I suddenly saw a small steamboat accosting the quay just below my balcony. What a revelation! Why not hire one of those boats to carry us directly from my apartment to the restaurant. Wouldn't that be a good idea? And have you noticed that the boat is also placed according to the "Golden Rule"?


Sunday, 4 May 2014

PINK COTTON BALLS IN THE DEEP BLUE SEA

Pink cotton balls in the blue

This morning, I woke up a bit early, as often happens in late spring, when the sun is rising ever earlier. It was around 5 am and I tip-toed out to my balcony on shaky feet. Still half-asleep, without my glasses, just savoring the clear and calm atmosphere of an early Sunday morning. 

Leaning on the balcony rails, my eyes turned downward. To my myopic surprise, I thought to see cosy pink cotton balls playing early games in the deep below. Back inside to fetch the Nikon and document this scene! I was lucky to be without my glasses. Being extremely near-sighted, I just about could make out the fuzzy balls and click on them. With my glasses on, I surely would have examined the structured view of Hammarby Sound in its entirety, and disregarded the romantic color play below my toes. 

What did the sky look like to provide me with such childish pleasures? Well, I went back again inside to fetch my glasses and get a sharp look at the world. To my surprise, I had to stretch my neck upwards considerably, to identify the rosy clouds up there in the sky that caused the color play below my toes. How lucky I was to get them so conveniently placed for my near-sighted appreciation!

Rosy clouds over Hammarby Sound

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

ISN'T GRAY BEAUTIFUL?


At my age, it doesn't take much to get us content and satisfied with life. Yesterday morning, I was still feeling rather low. Just returned from a skiing trip, the cold was getting its grip on me, with the nose running and the throat rough from coughing. In addition, my left thigh was hurting awfully, after a bad fall with the skis. I could barely walk outside, limping along to do my last minute shopping for the festive evening. 

But things soon turned to the better. A nice piece of Italian sausage, savored together with a glass of tasty red wine as dinner and, later on, an even nicer piece of Camembert, made from Nordic goat milk, digested with a glass of champagne as companion, did a lot to get me in better mood. Then a phone call from a good friend from Finland really rose my spirits. After that, out to the balcony, to admire the glorious year-end fireworks that Stockholm and its inhabitants are always organizing for our benefit. Finally to bed for a good night's sleep.

When I woke up this morning, I felt greatly rejuvenated. The thigh muscles were stretching lazily, as if telling me that they now were ready to get working again and the coughing had subsided. Nor did the grayness of the morning prevent me from feeling great. Was there not a rosy lining on top of the sky? Isn't it nice to have  a winter without slush and ice on the sidewalks, letting us walk without the permanent fear of breaking our legs?

So out I went for the first promenade of the New Year. How nice it felt to be able to walk normally again! How fresh the world looked to me!

Dear readers, I bring you good tidings: even if getting on in years has its issues, us old-timers can have a good time yet as often as not. Life doesn't end until it all ends! In the mean-time, plenty of opportunity to enjoy ourselves!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!