Thursday, 22 December 2011

Death and Desire

Photography has been associated with death by Roland Barthes; we look into the past when we look at photographs. These trivial photos will lie around for decades, long after we're gone.

Our lives are about action and movements. But a photograph can stop a fork that's on its way to the mouth: the fork will stay like that forever.

But we're not at ease with having our moments slipping into eternity. I realize this every time I try to photograph people. I guess we all just want to look good. Even though we're rotting in our graves we want to look good.

I'm thinking about this as I'm driving slowly and hungry through the dark. Photographs may be creepy, but I'm aware that most people would consider me creepy as well.

The creepiness of a photographer lies in his eyes; he's watching without taking part. He's both restless and persistent. He's full of unknown desire.

And I have no idea what I desire as I drive through these silent streets. Being this far north the gardens are desolated and barren, but shouldn't there be tracks in the snow? Shouldn't there be kids playing? Then I realize that a lot of the houses are empty. No curtains, no nothing.

I'm driving down Fairview Loop. I still can't see any people. The whole neighborhood appears eerily lifeless.

I pull into an empty street and stop the car in front of a big house. The Christmas decoration has been blown out of all proportions. It's hard not to think that all these lights must be compensating for something.

Monday, 19 December 2011


photo: Henrik Nor-Hansen
I'm roaming in the dark. I'm just driving. I'll get lost but I'm alone and it doesn't matter. I never really blame myself for anything.

It's the second night I'm out. I'll get antsy and say that I'll go for a drive. I'm better off in a car when I'm anxious.

photo: Henrik Nor-Hansen

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Dolphins and Dreams

It's frustrating to photograph dolphins in the wild. You can never tell when and where they will jump, if they jump at all. But Nina managed to take this picture just after we anchored outside an open beach in Mexico. Maybe a hundred dolphins passed by, and one of the very last made the jump.

Bika Contessa 26

The dolphins returned that night. We could hear the high-pitched squeeking through Bika's hull. But we also heard a strange shuffling sound, as if the dolphins were breathing out just below the sur- face. They probably scared fish towards the beach.

I once shared a hospital room with a demented man. He was old but full of energy. He often paced restless around at night, with his slippers shuffling over the linoleum floor.

Still in a dream I heard the pod of dolphins. I thought it was the old man - an army of him. "Where am I?" he kept asking.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Not dark yet

photo Henrik Nor-Hansen

We're on our way to get a turkey for Thanksgiving. I suggest waiting until Thanksgiving, but now Nina has the turkey on her mind and it won't let go. Besides, it's not dark yet.

Then she declares she has to buy Christmas cards. I suggest waiting. Instead I get the shopping list with turkey and gravy and whatnot.

photo Henrik Nor-Hansen

photo Henrik Nor-Hansen

I also get the bright red shopping bag. Don't get me wrong: plastic bags should be banned world wide. Those bags wreaks havoc in the sea.

But as I walk towards the store I'm thinking the red shopping bag doesn't feel right. Quite frankly; it feels a bit gay.* A shopping bag of cotton may be fine in California, but this is Alaska.

I get the turkey and the rest and get in line. The cashier is good-looking but I'm about to jeopardize my manhood. I guess I'll just have to brave it out.

* I'm all for gay rights, gay marriage, etc.

Monday, 21 November 2011

In the Ditch

It's early Sunday morning. My face is stiff and strangely hot. I rub the cold gloves hard over my face.

But I can't help noticing the number of cars that have ended up in the ditch. Even on the short trip I'm taking.

There's an elderly couple who has plunged straight into the snow for no apparent reason. I watch as a trooper enters the scene. The couple just sit put. They won't budge. It's like they can't believe this is happening to them.

Then there's a brown pickup close to Knik Bar. I think we passed that one yesterday. He's probably still sleeping it off.

Soon after I pass a red sedan that seemed to have taken a spin. I walk back with my camera and start taking pictures.

I feel slightly uncomfortable when a dark van slows down behind me. Is it offending to take pictures of a ditched car? Maybe. I'm not sure.

There're two men in the front seat. A dog is barking in the back of the van and I hear someone shouting shut the fuck up. So they are three, I gather.
- Is it your car? I ask.
- It's my wife's car.
- Is she okay?
We pause for a moment. My concern may have sounded a bit false. I also realize that his eyes keeps shifting down to my camera.
- Who want's to know?
- I just passed the car.
- Are you from Germany?
- No.
- She's fine. She dodged a moose and got ditched instead.
- The Saturday night moose?
- Whatever.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Suffering, or just snow

photo: Henrik Nor-Hansen
I'm walking the dog when it starts to snow. The wind picks up and heavy snow is making it hard to see. Everything changes. People are lurking forward, their faces turned away from the wind.

What I like about heavy weather is the way it breaks down barriers. Strangers talk to each other. You may suffer, but it's easy to see the suffering in others too.

A special feat about Alaska is the way many people dress. They seem to prolong the summer by holding on to shorts and flip-flops. They may have heated cars in heated garages, but even so.

People with kids are also an interesting theme. They seem to suffer the most. I guess the snow comes on top on everything else.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The latecomers

"We got this place between Palmer and Wasilla because it was cheap. There's no work and my wife hates it here. The kids are still young. They don't know anything else. Anyways, the con- struction has started. I'll guess we just have to see how it goes."

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Burned house

He slowed down the car to a crawl. This was the house where he grew up in Wasilla. His parents stayed on to the end, but he eventually lost contact with them.

He kept talking while driving. His childhood seemed strangely distant, as if without any real emotional impact. "Then there was a fire. God knows what happened."

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The art of restoration

We met an elderly woman on our drive from Fairbanks. She told us about her deceased husband. He wanted fancy cars, but could only afford wrecks. It was the art of restoration that he played out in his head.

But he never got around to do any restoration. Through their forty odd years of marriage the cars piled up in the woods behind the house. They detoriated in the rain, in the snow. Then he got cancer. It all went very quick.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Palmer Bar

Nobody says much in Palmer Bar. Whatever you talked about when entering, you'll end up silent. It's a place to study the full effect of alcohol.

I'm sort of waiting for the bar to fill up, but the clientele is already there. Most are heavy set men with baseball caps and bewildered gazes. They're all sitting along the bar, wearing shirts and jackets of thick flannel. There's a pool table, but nobody's playing.

photo: Henrik Nor-Hansen

Around midnight it seems like some of the men are trying hard to be cheerful, but you can tell by their faces that loneliness and desire is a bottomless pit.

I look at Nina and wonder why it's always impossible for us to hold a conversation in a bar. Is it because we met in one?

Thursday, 3 November 2011

First snow, Wasilla

It's still dark when I leave the house. I brush off a thin layer of snow and sit down in the painfully cold car.

I can taste the reflux of acid as I drive the empty streets through Wasilla. This is way too early for me. But it's the first snow of the season and it had gotten into my head that I wanted to see what the Alaskans were up to.

I drive into an empty Shell station. It's Sunday, and I sit for a while and just watch. Everything is silence and neon.

I follow a couple of cars that eventually ends up in front of an enormous bowling hall. It's like a hangar. I suddenly find everything perplexing. The parking lot alone is absolutely enormous.

I turn the engine off and sits quietly in the car. I'm really trying to contemplate why anybody would want to go bowling at 9 am on a Sunday morning. It just doesn't make sense.

I'm about to pull out of the parking lot when I notice a high-heeled woman who leans conspicuously into a car. It's not a prostitute, I gather, not 9 o'clock on a Sunday morning and certainly not in a small town like Wasilla. But now she's got my attention and I'm lingering in the parking lot to see in which direction this is heading.

Then I slowly start to feel old and ridiculous. I reason with myself, and quickly butt out of the place.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011


I decided to take a walk to clear my head. There's a path that leads deep into the forest. I was okay for awhile, but then felt more nervous. I suddenly started to think about the devil.

I really don't believe in the existence of any kind of manifested evil. Still, what's nonexistent has a major part in anxiety. It might even be the main ingredient.

So I thought a lot about the devil and met this black dog, with his head enclouded in heavy breat- hing. This may be the place to mention that I'm more of a cat person.

photo: Henrik Nor-Hansen

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Sunday morning

photo: Henrik Nor-Hansen

I was taking pictures of the power plant in Morro Bay, when a drunk man came up to me and said: "She's got kids with hooves instead of hands. What we should love is love itself."

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Puppies for Peace

photo: Henrik Nor-Hansen

A homeless is watching as a peace demonstration starts to pick up momentum. It's not much of a momentum, though. 40 persons, at the most, has gathered downtown San Francisco to protest USA's wars in dirt poor countries. So the homeless watch for awhile, then drift off. He probably couldn't care less.

photo: Henrik Nor-Hansen

What's interesting about this demonstration is that it demonstrates how little people care. It also demonstrates that there ain't no bite in the message given. In fact, it's hard to imagine a more pathetic protest against American imperialism.

Then it suddenly strikes me that the American diversity may be a bit superficial. The core values are dished out on an even scale. The American war machine has made people believe in an eternal war. An eternal war for peace, that is. So it's easy to sit back and shrug it off. Unless you're in the country where the bombs drop.

"It's hard to see the truth when it's the lie that feeds you." Ooops, who said that?

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Scary sailing

We're off at dawn. The weather forecast predicts a light breeze offshore. They also mention a 12-14 feet swell from a distant storm. We don't pay attention to it.

It's slow going under the Golden Gate, but at least we got the tide right. We start our three hour watches, and I'm stretching out on my bunk. I fall asleep. There's no swell yet.

The wind dies. I'm half asleep. Nina is getting frustrated; I can hear it by the way she pulls the sheets. Bika is rolling more and more. After a while it's not even possible to stay in the bunk.

The predicted swell is coming in fast. We're still close enough to see buildings on land. We can see huge white breakers that slam up at Ocean Beach, but what's more serious is the towering swell at the San Francisco Bar. It breaks here too. It's unbelievable; we're ghosting along in a light breeze, with the gennaker, and the sea is breaking.

We have done a terrible mistake. This kind of swell will break in shallow water, and the scary part is that we have no idea how bad it will be. Try measuring the wave height in a small boat. It's impossible. There's only one thing to do: get out into deeper water. So we ghost along, straight out against the towering seas. My mouth is dry. This is some of the scariest sailing we've ever encountered. In the bottom of every wave we're wondering if we ever get to climb the next hill. But Bika do. And eventually we reach safety in deeper sea.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

How will it end?

photo: Henrik Nor-Hansen
Non-sailors often get shocked by the fact that we cross oceans in a 26 feet sailboat. We have met people who can't even fathom that it's allowed. Then they drive away from the dock.

The list of motor vehicle deaths in the US have shown a remarkable decline the last two decades, down to 32,708 in 2010. But it's still a staggering figure. Imagine motor vehicle deaths world-wide, not to mention the number of people who get seriously injured and molested for life. It's like a trivial version of World War III.

I'm puzzled by the connection between triviality and fear. It seems like a higher risk of death reduces our fears. But this is not what's meant by safety in numbers.