Right, bloody hell, what a month.
I haven’t really had any time at all to write properly for this blog post beyond bullet points on my phone. This is far from having spawned out of any laziness but is instead testament to just how busy my March has been. When I look back at my early notes it seems so long ago and I’m pretty grateful to myself for keeping up with my vlogs to fill in the blanks here. Anyway, let’s get into it...
So this month started, with yet another kitchen party on campus. This one however was a bit different, this one was the annual “Bad Taste” party in which, rather predictably, one has to dress in a manner that involves clashing or just looks terrible in general. Unfortunately for me however I just looked too good in my silky hawaiian-print shirt and £5 sweatpants so I had to opt for what was later described as a “camp French lifeguard” ensemble (episode 6 if you’re wondering x). Anyway with everyone looking amazingly awful I decided to conduct a series of portraits on my iPhone because even whilst drunk I’m a beast of a photographer. These turned out really well and have actually inspired me pursue more iPhone-based documentary of the social side of foreign integration, but as I haven’t fully developed this idea I’m going to leave it at that for now and return when I have more time to explore it.
This month I was approached by a writer for university newspaper ‘Karlstad Studenttidning’ and was subsequently interviewed for a feature on international students. In talking with the writer, Lotta, the topic of my photography inevitably came up and this seemed to really excite her. She took me straight to her editor and, upon seeing my website and past work they asked if I would be interested in working for the paper whilst studying here. I shook their hands and left with the promise that they’d be in touch when a new story pops up. I’m hoping that this opportunity gives me a few chances at documenting my time here that I maybe wouldn’t otherwise get; of course, I’ll update once something, if anything, comes of this.
Last month I touched on my desire to use the “sunshine city” of Karlstad as a base for travelling to the various cities that orbit me (proper clever metaphor that I know). Since my last post I had bitten the bullet and purchased tickets for trips to Gothenburg, Lapland and Latvia. The latter doesn’t actually go ahead until next month but the former were pretty spur of the moment and admittedly purchased out of my fear-of-missing-out or, more accurately, my FOWTOTENSTIOWHAT (that’s Fear-Of-Wasting-This-Opportunity-To-Experience-New-Sights-That-I-Otherwise-Wouldn’t-Have-Access-To, if you’re unfamiliar with how the kids talk these days).
Anyway, the two days spent in Gothenburg were fantastic. Much like Stockholm it involved a hell of a lot of walking but I felt better for being there with such good company. The roster this time involved Andrea and Isabelle but featured the addition of Eva (Belgian), Ester (Spanish), Ciara and Orla (both Irish); I’m not exactly sure why the majority of my friends here are girls but I can only deduce that I’m a certified babe-magnet. My time in the city as ever can be seen in my corresponding vlog but one high point worth mentioning is the Gothenburg Museum of Art’s exhibition on the Swedish Photobook. Anyone reading this who even remotely knows me (I’m looking at you, my jealous photography mates) will be able to guess how just excited I was at happening upon this retrospective. Literally by chance too, we only popped in for a look at what’s on. Constantly considering and reconsidering how exactly to photographically respond to life in Sweden, this look at literally every significant work on the country was an absolute gift. To be in the position that I am, to have the opportunity to see stuff like this (even if at times by accident), is something I'm developing a real gratitude for. I was heartbroken to discover some variants of my ideas have already been produced I can’t help that great minds think alike; overall though I was absolutely engrossed for the entire two hours I spent in that single room of books. Heaven.
Lapland was f*cking epic. The 24-hour coach journey, the northern lights, the ice hotel, feeding reindeer, eating reindeer, a day-trip to Norway, eating whale, moose-spotting, eating moose, wood-cabin saunas and ice-hole plunging, mulled wine, cookies and mulled wine in a Sami tent. I returned with almost five hours of raw footage from the trip, I’d definitely recommend a look at my thirty-five minute compression of the week. One note I made on the experience was just how comfortable everyone is with each other; most of the 40 Karlstad students have only known one another for three months but act like the oldest of friends, it’s such a cool atmosphere. If you closed your eyes and listened to the conversations you’d hear a constant exchange of culture and mutual respect for such. What’s formed is this community of international students, all going through the same experience, most of whom (myself included) here without friends from wherever home might be.
It’s a rather beautiful thing to be a part of.
Returning from Lapland, that’s when the stress began.
This month my time on the Cut/Uncut course drew to a close and so concluded with an examination of both my theoretical and practical competency. I was set the latter before lapland and had made sure to lay the foundations early so as not to be boxed into submitting rushed work. Our task was essentially to create a short film in teams that encapsulated a range of editing techniques established by the course. Taking issue with the pitfalls I’ve experienced in previous group work, and impressing my lecturer with my project idea, I was granted the opportunity to work alone. I knew this would entail so much more work on my part, but I’m a selfish glory-hogging bastard. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been mentally translating every film lecture to fit photography the entire time I have been here, and so it came as no surprise when I took on the objective of telling a fictional narrative through the temporal arrangement of still-photographs. My script was actually just an extension of my own paranoid musings whilst out taking photographs at night; I recruited Isabelle to play the “Milo” character and Kai to play a serial killer. Needless to say this wasn’t a romantic-comedy. Anyway, taking all my shots and recording my sound before Lapland meant that the day I had between returning from the trip and screening my final work was spent stitching everything together. The screening was a great success and my lecturers Stina and Patrik, both in attendance, seemed to love it.
Following the screening I was invited out with some of the guys from my course to go out for bowling and a pint. I didn’t realise Karlstad had a bowling place, let alone that it was actually a part of Nöjesfabriken (that massive club I mentioned last post). On top of that, it turns out that Oscar(one of the #filmlads)’s mum is a manager there so we got to play for free. This was pretty cool in itself but my biggest takeaway came from being invited in the first place; the five other guys are all Swedish and could have easily stuck together and gone without me. Instead we had a great time and they talked in English the entire time, even attempting regional accents and asking me about the wee dialogic nuances that I’ve always taken for granted. Really cool night out.
With the practical element of examination out of the way, the real fun could begin in the form of a 15 page written paper. The week or so I had to do this were mainly spent in the library and to be honest kind of reside as a black spot in my memory. Self-preservative trauma-erasion, I reckon. Anyway I’m writing this looking at the stack of eight books and notes that still blanket my desk, just glad to have submitted a high-standard (in my head anyway, imagine if I get a bad grade) exam paper. 7000 words written in 7 days? Easy mate.
I’ve put my short film Beyond Blue Shadows and the extract of my exam paper that corresponds to it here on my site so feel free to check that out.
What a month, what a f*cking great month.