The Blue Box and The Red Sofa at the End of the Universe

Been knocking about for a bit already this year. Things to do, people to see, places to be – as always. Different projects, different places, different moods, different versions of me. This is but a few fragmented tales and images of the past few months. Began the year in cold winterstruck Copenhagen. My first Copenhagen winter in 4 years, and yes suffice to say, not really my favourite time of the year in Copenhagen. Was just about as horrible, no maybe a bit worse, than I remember it. Being with friends and family was always, very nice. The neverending paradox of having a life in a place where I do not wish to live, outside of Summer. So I pretend I have a blue box, a TARDIS and I time-travel.

Then I briefly spent a few days defrosting in the Florida sun; attempting and failing to connect with Miami. The sun was warm, my mind was cold and dark. Apparently I had forgotten that I hate big cities, especially when feeling exhausted and down. A longer Miami story with more images to come. Not the best of times for me, so I time-traveled.

Miami SoBe skater

Went to amazing Guatemala for a spell. Learned a language, made many pictures, worked with an NGO, hung out at the local market where you can buy everything from fruit to goldfish in a bag to latest Hollywood movies. Donated a few liters of blood to Guatemalteco mosquitoes, inhaled incense all day long photographing the rather spectacular processions – and drank many a cup of the worlds best coffee. Much more to come, a return to Guatemala must happen as this country touched my soul in some ways.

Guatemala market

guatemala-procession

PPresently I arrived in New Mexico. Several projects to do here, first of all, recharge internal power supply. Fortunately I am staying with my great friend Laura Gerwin in her wonderful house, which like a TARDIS is bigger on the inside and a happy place, featuring presently two dogs and a cat and a fish and a time-traveler. I am doing promotional videos for Renaissance Art. Am shooting stuff with Daniel Milnor, some kind of followup to Una Pura Verdad. And, the long awaited followup to Cowboys & Aliens – Mad And Magic Raving II tour with Charlene. New Mexico is wild and crazy and enchanted and quirky. We had epic clouds on my first day here, proper end of the universe clouds.

NM loco magic

Finally, it somehow feels completely natural to find a red sofa in the middle of nowhere of the enchanted state of Nuevo Mexico. Well, it was just outside of Santa Fe on a rather gorgeous and stormy day. Red Sofa at the end of the universe, in wild and crazy New Mexico. A very fitting place for a time-traveler to hang out. Goes well with my time-machine, the blue box.

FBJ hanging out in Santa Fe NM

Still a lot of running and time-traveling to do. And more stories to come from all of these places as I get a look at the images and write some tales. Later. Much later. I struggle mightily at the moment with posting any words or images online, struggle with the whole idea of being online at all, struggle with my writing and photography, struggle with reality not feeling real. Disliking having any online version of myself. Paraphrasing Bilbo Baggins, I need a very long holiday…from? well I do not know. Stuff to figure out, deamons to pacify, reset buttons to push, hence the fragmentation. Oh well. Onwards and forwards! Vamos. Hasta luego amigos.


Bolivia Remembered

Bolivia, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, December 2011. The camera stares at, grins at me lying on my hostel bed in tropical heat–I shoot angry glares back. The camera has been kicking my butt every day for some weeks and I hate it right now. Despise photography. But I need to pick it up and go create something. Need an outlet. A dark storm hovers in my mind, I am depressed, all purpose seems lost and recent events including a suicide made me fall in a black hole devoid of all light. I walk the world feeling completely disconnected from human life. Despising myself and my existence. As always, light this bright casts some very dark shadows. Despite an abundance of sun light in tropical Santa Cruz I have been in the shadows for days. I like extremes–I seek extremes. Fitting then I guess, that I am in the darkest of moods in the brightest of warm tropical weather.

Get out. Walk. Standing still never worked for me. Must keep moving. Or shadows catch up. Grab the damn camera and walk, walk the streets of this hot, weird and interesting melting pot of a city. Get out of this hostel from hell. Walk, damn legs, walk. A market appears. A gigantic chaotic market bigger than any market I have seen in Asia or anywhere else. A world inside a world. No hiding here. Not a single gringo in sight anywhere. I break out the camera. Channel my darkness into looking, seeing, shooting, making images.

Flemming-Bo-Jensen-Bolivia-Santa-Cruz-street

Flemming-Bo-Jensen-Bolivia-Santa-Cruz-street-women

These are two of my favourite pictures from Bolivia and I like putting them together. They look like one image, almost. The top image is from the street I lived on and an easy image to make. The second image is my favourite from Bolivia, women at the largest market ever in the history of all markets–that I have been to. Filled at least 15 square city blocks. Hard to shoot this image. NO ONE wanted to be part of any photos. Had to steal images as I walked around being the most noticeable person in the entire city.

Memories are funny. These words are written about a year after the images were made. And I want to return to Bolivia. Have been on my mind recently. Calls me back. It is one of the hardest places to work in that I have experienced. I was in a dark, dark place for the 10 days I was there. But it was a very interesting place filled with awesome people and places of contrast and extremes. That’s why I want to return of course. The challenge. And I need the extremes. To create. To feel alive.

Santa Cruz de la Sierra: Markets

Crowded, chaotic, anarcy, action, trading, food, smells, clothes, spices, people, shouting, more people, people everywhere. And in Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia and in the biggest market I have ever witnessed, you can add this to the list: tropic humidity, 36c degrees heat, scooters, TVs, speakers, cars, motorbikes, pirated DVDs, shoes, perfume, soap, Christmas decorations, anything and everything, fried chickens, live chickens from a place called Pollo Batman and many many thousands of people including a few mennonites and one gringo, yours truly. I am big fan of markets, especially in Asia and South America. I love the chaos, the people, the food, the smells, the anarchy, there appears to be no rules but it all works. How exactly do they get this unbelievable amount of stuff to and from the street stalls each day?

Trying to make visual sense of any of this can be almost impossible but it is much fun. Apart from the mennonites, I am at least a foot taller than anyone else here. Heck, I’m even taller than the booths and whoever invented those ugly coloured plastic market tents are pure evil. Not good for photography. But it’s fun to shoot markets. I stalk the mennonites as they stick out as I do and provide some interesting contrast. Plenty people stop me and want to buy my Fuji X100. No amigo, I need my precious. This market is maybe 12-15 city blocks. Maybe it never ends. It is daunting in size. I walk and walk and get halfway lost and shoot and get stared it a lot and shoot some more, and walk some more, people duck my camera, no one likes the camera here, if I get just one image I like from today I am fine. Keep walking, keep shooting, so much crazyness going on, I like crazyness, fit right in. Always carry the camera, snap, move, think fast, try not to step on a chicken. The markets of Santa Cruz de la Sierra.

Bangkok.local

Once upon a time is how many adventures begins. This one starts now (or well it started Tuesday after many preparations). Day Zero. Time is reset as I leave Danish airspace destination Nomadic life, first stop Bangkok.

The flights are turbulent. First one to Amsterdam is physically turbulent as we pass through a major rain storm. Second one from ‘Dam to Bangkok is emotionally turbulent. This is huge. Hours earlier I said goodbye to my two best friends. Now raw electricity shoots through my veins. Goose bumps. Heart races. Into the Wild, the wild unknown. Leave it all behind. New life. Reset time.

Bangkok – alien in Ramkanphaeng

Immigration and luggage is a breeze and I find my good friend Kai – he worked with us on the Malaysia and Borneo expedition in June. We get a taxi to his suburb Ramkanphaeng. Part of the fun and challenge of travel is knowing nothing. This is at the extreme end of that scale! Ramkanphaeng is a large uni suburb, mostly students or people who work at the uni. Kai speaks very good English but no one else does and everything is written in Thai. For 3 days I do not meet any other tourists. Not a single whitefella actually. I cannot read and only Kai understands me. I eat at the street kitchens where I point to food and handover money not understanding the price (does not matter anyway is lunch is something like 30 bath = 1 US dollar). This is actual true Bangkok life, no touristy Khao San Road from hell and it is incredible fascinating to experience this. More Ramkanphaeng stories to come, here are a few snapshots from the streets and markets.

Main road of Ramkanphaeng, add some rain and this is Blade Runner! Very busy street, even more so at night.

Ramkanphaeng Road

Fresh food markets, a symphony of colours and smells:

Ramkanphaeng Fresh Food Market

A typical street kitchen on the small road where I stayed. This is away from the main road and a charming neighbourhood of real life. 

Ramkanphaeng street kitchen

My Hood – kitchens and shots on the street where I stayed.

Ramkanphaeng street scene

Randomness

  • As I am ordering lunch from a street kitchen using my special pointing technique a guy asks me in English “oh you know and like Thai food”. “Yes”, I say surprised, “Love it”. Turns out he is from the Philippines and when I reveal I am Danish he promptly speaks to me in Danish. He used to have a Danish girlfriend. Small world at times or weird coincidences surely!
  • I did spend a few hours in the city centre and saw Khao San Road which is hell on Earth. A disgusting terrible tourist trap backpackers from hell street of nothing but pubs, restaurants and shops pushing crap to tourists. Interesting to see, a completely different world to Ramkanphaeng.
  • Naturally as time is being reset some weird glitches occurs in the ‘Matrix’. In ‘Dam airport a young Brit two meters from me is arrested by the Police and he then promptly proceeds to regurgitate the drugs he is smuggling. On the plane to Bangkok I actually sit next to a couple from Finland named the Harkonens! (read Frank Herbert’s Dune).

Crocs in the main street of Darwin! Sun drops into Timor Sea!

Food! At Mindil Beach MarketThe Mindil Beach Market is in every Darwin tourist brochure so you might think it’s overrated and over packed with tourists. But it really is good fun and in a way it’s what Darwin is all about in one little (not so little; about 190 stalls) market. It’s a big multi cultural melting pot of tourists and laid-back locals enjoying the atmosphere, checking out the many food and craft stalls, grooving to the bands, artists and well downright crazy performers performing – and everyone worshipping the sun drop straight into the Timor sea while eating $8 meals cooked by chefs like my mate on the right (yeah that’s right! I shot a photo of a non-landscape subject!). Everyone is friendly and determined to have a great time and the people are super entertaining. Tropical lifestyle at it’s best!

Mindil Beach Market I still felt tired and lazy and couldn’t be bothered walking the 4 kilometres to the beach in the tropical heat…so I hailed a taxi. Taxi driver was a character all right; sees my big camera backpack with tripod and asks “Off to shoot the sunset? You’re a photographer mate? Professional?”. “Yeah. Well semi-pro” I say. He asks “I got a digital camera too, how big is your memory card? I think mine can shoot like a thousand photos!”. “Hehehe, well mate” I say “I have about 40 gigs of CF cards, 320 gigs of external HDs, 1 laptop and blank DVDs. I don’t really plan on running out of memory!”. He shifts conversation to food and says “So much good food at the market, you like Indian food?”. “Yes I do” I say. “It’s SPIIIIICYYYYY” he then shouts like Jim Carrey in The Mask. Like I said, wildly entertaining people at the market and also driving you to the market!

Mindil Beach Market It’s hard to capture the atmosphere of the market in a photo. I’ve included a few quick and dirty edits from Lightroom with blown highlights, halos and everything! But they do sort of show you the blur of people walking back and forth between the stalls surrounded by palm trees and tropical sunset light. To see the sunset itself – read on.

Crocs on Main Street of Darwin!

Just had to throw in that headline. Since Crocosaurus Cove opened in the middle of Darwin a few months ago this headline has been featured everywhere! Crocosaurus Cove is a huge new croc zoo right on Mitchell Street. It is worth a visit, it’s really well made with some beautiful crocs in huge pools that feature super design. Like in some fish aquariums you can walk underneath the pools and see the crocs from all angles. Impressive, haven’t seen that before. Mitchell street is also backpacker hell with all the big backpacker hostels and therefore also all the big pubs. I reckon they should let the crocs out at night, cull the drunken backpacker population a bit!

Sun drops into Timor Sea! – and Australia and GND filters

Sunset at Mindil Beach in DarwinI don’t really use a lot of filters. I sometimes use a neutral density filter in Copenhagen to cut light for longer exposures. The ND filter you can just stick on and forget so it’s easy to use. Doesn’t get in my way. I rarely use a graduated neutral density (GND) filter in Copenhagen as the soft pastel light means I can manage without it and I find GND filters annoying to use. I’m not really that keen on tripods either. Or cameras for that matter. That’s why I loved the 617 viewfinder so much. I want as transparent a creative process as possible concentrating on composition and shooting many angles and hate anything that gets in the way. I would love to just swap one eye for a 50 megapixel 14-bit sensor with 2:1 aspect ratio and shoot by blinking!

In Australia the light and colours can be so intense even after sunset that a GND filter really is needed. A GND filter has a gradual cutoff meaning half the filter cuts exposure by for instance 2 stops while the rest of it is transparent. Means you can even out the light between the sky and the beach or sea for example. I still find GND filters a right bloody pain in the behind to use. Can’t see what’s going on, have to keep adjusting every time I change composition. But it means you can capture Mindil Beach dusk shots like the one above and this one (again, just quick exports from Lightroom) 

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Aboriginal art

I am very fascinated by aboriginal culture and have by now seen a lot of rock art and paintings all over Australia. Darwin has what I consider the best artists and the best art galleries. The traditional old x-ray style of Arnhem Land in Kakadu National Park here in the Northern Territory, the Oenpelli region, is my favourite style; the style most people know are probably the new dot-painting style. There are several large and gorgeous aboriginal art galleries in Darwin, the Aboriginal Fine Arts Gallery is outstanding and features some of the best Arnhem Land artists. Djawida Nadjongorle is one of the famous Arnhem artist and his outstanding work can be seen here. If I had $6500 to spare the huge Mimi Spirits Hunting painting was coming home with me!

I’ve gone bush!

Finally; now the real work can begin; the real photography! I am fully normalised, sleep fine again and Wednesday sees me on a 14 day outback trip through the magnificient Kimberleys. I have very high expectations; hope to get some fantastic outback landscapes to add to my portfolio. I won’t be online for a while so see ya on the other side! I’ve gone bush!