30 March 2009

Imperial Troops Land in Skåne

MALMÖ--Sunday I went into Malmö with my friend Ali. It was a bright sunny day and there was a sci-fi convention in its final day. We met some other photographers there and wandered around taking some pics. It was rather staid compared to Marcon in Columbus, Ohio, which I had gone to with my friend Jake a few years back. Of course this was just in the convention center, not a hotel, so there were no drunk Klingons partying with Orcs later on, no love affairs begun between Furries and Stromtroopers. Actually there were very few people dressed up while back in the US I would guess over half the attendees were in costume. Well, there were a lot of people dressed as Swedes...

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26 March 2009

From the Big Snow

LUND--Spring keeps trying to arrive but the harsh and wintry Norse gods keep doing their best to strangle it in its flowery cradle. Or some damn thing like that...

When I got back from the second snowiest and coldest winter on record in Ohio the chill came with me and for once the land I expected to be snow-covered was and for a while it was beautiful. These pictures are from that morning as I was walking to language school.

Now I just want the summer to come. There was snow on the ground Monday morning but the afternoon was bright with sun. This morning was bright and clear and the early afternoon warm but now it is bitingly cold and there are flakes of white in the air.

24 March 2009

Two Views of Lund

LUND--There are these trees in public places trimmed in such a way that, especially when winter-bare, remind me very much of ones found in a Dr. Seuss book.

21 March 2009

From Late Last Summer in Malmö

19 March 2009

And Another Article On Simon (of which he was not involved)

LUND--The unfortunate thing about this article, I found out after talking to Simon, is that the writer never spoke to him. It is, in fact, a re-write of the Wired article. Of course I should have known this as Simon would never say, "Please pirate my documentary... I beg you." A line which, if you know Mr. Klose, you would know isn't his style. He isn't much one for begging and he likes to be paid for his hard work as much as anyone.

What I find interesting here is that this article is a pirated version of the Wired article.


18 March 2009

Simon Klose (and my photo of him) in "Wired" magazine

LUND--Lena's talented cousin Simon Klose is a filmmaker based out of nearby Malmö. He has, for some time, been making a documentary about the Pirate Bay owners (who are Swedes) and was recently in Stockholm to film their trial which may have far-reaching implications for the future of Internet file sharing and the definitions of piracy. While there he met a writer for Wired magazine who was also covering the trial and who decided to do an article on Simon as well.

A few months ago Simon had purchased an adaptor for his Panasonic DVX100 with which he could use Nikon SLR lenses. He borrowed a few from me and I took several photos of him with his new gadget. Wired ran one of my photos with the article (not the one above). So check out the article and the photo.

Spring Wind

LUND--A strong wind blew yesterday, shaking tree limbs, rattling signs, tearing dead leaves from their hold and sending them swirling along in rattling brown clouds. The sun shown and the wind, though hard, felt friendly, necessary, like it was blowing winter from Norden. In the grass, amongst the still bare trees, nature's first signs had appeared: small white and yellow and now purple flowers, telling the world that warmth would, at least this time, return again to the land.

14 March 2009

Leica Photo Contest

LUND--The Leica photo contest rules are deceptively simple. Eight to 12 photos in a photo essay, on the rather up-to-interpretation theme of "Man in relation to his environment" at least one of which needs to have been taken in the last year. Well, for me, that left out all my Central America stuff so entered 12 shots I had taken at the Transcarpathian Regional Mental Hospital. It was that or the ones from the Roma camp and for better or worse decided on the mental hospital. This was the first year for digital submissions. I see a lot up that are very good and also a lot that are pretty heavily manipulated. All I will say for mine is that they were shot with a Leica M6 ttl on Kodak 400CN and scanned with a Nikon Coolscan V with some help from my friend here in Sweden the photographer Justin Brown. As for PhotoShopping nothing was done other than what can do in a darkroom--contrast adjustment mainly and a modicum of dodging and burning. Regardless, please go look at Leica Photo Contest

Transcarpathian Home for Disabled Children

LUND--Jennifer Lawrence, a nurse from Ohio whom I met on the SARA trip to Ukraine last summer, just sent me several CDs of her photos from the trip. This is one she took of me at work while visiting a home for mentally disabled children in the Carpathian mountains. The other is, more or less (there are three similar frames) the photo I was taking when she took this.

11 March 2009

Two Photos of Lena

09 March 2009

The Children Of The Mangroves Short Film

Sharon's Art and Purpose

Sharon Fiely on the Rio del Espino near the Pacific coast of El Salvador.
--Andrew Tonn photo

"God's Love Shines" an original oil painting by Sharon Fiely
--image courtesy of Sharon Fiely

LUND -- I first met Sharon Fiely about 4:30 in the morning at the Columbus, Ohio airport in 2007. I was lugging my normal burden of camera gear, made all the heavier since I was making a film. I mention this because the first thing I noticed about Sharon was her extra luggage – a large, flat crate that, she explained to various flight personnel, contained a painting which must arrive undamaged at a Salvadoran church. I understood transporting things that must arrive undamaged and over the next hours came to admire her singularity of purpose in shepherding that package.

We were all there to catch the 6 a.m. flight to San Salvador on a delegation from SARA (Sharing America’s Resources Abroad) an ecumenical, humanitarian relief organization I had worked with the year before and was now engaged to make a film for.

While on the plane, Sharon and I began to get to know one another and she gave me a card bearing a reproduction of the painting in the crate. The image, of a glowing cross and dove over a tropical coast was titled, “God’s Love Shines.” The coast it depicted was also our familiar destination, El Espino, El Salvador, the location much of my film was to be centered around.

Playa El Espino
--Andrew Tonn photo

Over the next week I would speak at length with Sharon about her art and her motivations for coming to an area of the world I had spent much of the past years of my life. Though at times our perspectives on the world differed, I confess that I needed some of her enthusiasm. This was my seventh trip to Central America, time that would total nearly two years, most of it spent working with medical relief projects. This was Sharon’s second trip and I could see in her much of the enthusiasm and energy that had kept me coming back. I remembered how my own first trip had altered the course of my life, how after it all I could think about was Honduras and how I could get back there and explain it to others

Throughout the coming days we spoke while traveling around El Salvador. The conversations often continued late into the night, sitting in the shaded courtyard of Hotel Villa Real. There, Sharon and the other delegation members and I would try to make sense of the world, of what we could do to improve it and of our own motivations for being there. It was in those moments that I got some sense of who Sharon was and where she had come from.

“My first trip in June 2006 turned out to be one of the most inspiring times of my life,” she said, “I think of it every day, about the people I made bonds with, about a country recovering from a civil war and locked into some of the worst poverty in the world. One of the places we visited on that first trip was a Lutheran church in a very poor community. All it had on its walls was a paper cross, a wooden cross and a picture of Jesus. After the services Bishop Gomez and his wife ran a soup kitchen to make sure the people had something to eat that day. One thing the Bishop said changed my life. He told me they were there to, ‘Build bridges not walls.’”

Sharon Fiely with Salvadoran children in the town of El Espino.
--photo courtesy of Sharon Fiely

I remember Sharon telling me these things there in the hotel courtyard, about her and her friend Kim Hemmelgarn deciding that I was their new younger brother, to be taken under-wing, and feeling my own inevitable, accumulated cynicism dissipate under those wind-blown palm shadows.

Sharon went on to talk about some of her own life, saying, “I studied art back in High School and during my senior year received a gold medal and the chance to go to art school. I now realize I was a fool to turn it down but I continued teaching myself, buying books on different techniques, eventually discovering I was unhappy with the way acrylics blended and dried. I wasn’t getting the results I wanted so decided to teach myself oils with the help of books and a few Saturday classes,

“And so I painted in oils until 1991 when I was hit by a fork-lift which left me almost unable to walk for nearly a year. I found myself giving up on my faith and on the talent God had blessed me with. I quit painting altogether about 1995 due to the pain when I stood and reached towards the canvas. I also developed carpal tunnel syndrome and it became so frustrating, dropping the brushes, that I just quit.

“But then, in 2005, my husband and I were talking about the talent I had been blessed with. About that same time we began attending church again and they asked for volunteers to paint murals on the walls. Shortly after, the minister asked for volunteers for a trip to El Salvador and when I returned all I could think about were the bare walls of that church in San Salvador that gave so much and I painted “God Love Shines.”

The original oil painting "God's Love Shines" is presented to the Lutheran Church of San Salvador and Bishop Gomez by Sharon Fiely.
--Andrew Tonn photo

The painting made it safely to the San Salvadoran church and hangs even now on its wall. A similar original hangs in Sharon’s home church in Ohio. “…it was about time I figured out what path He intended me to take my art,” she said, “I have now asked others to ask themselves what talent, skill or resource they have to help others in need and then to take action.”

Reproductions of “God’s Love Shines” are available in various sizes and all proceeds go to relief projects in El Salvador. Fiely can be contacted at: sharonforapurpose@gmail.com.

03 March 2009

All You Need to Know

LUND--Of my trip to the US there is little to say. Its time had come and so I flew back, not to the Southwest of my childhood but, perhaps, to the place where I became a man, where my parents still live and to where most of those who had become my closest friends live as well.

So I flew to fly-over country and it began to snow. I had thought I missed being known by people but in truth it was only that I missed the people I know well. While in Wooster I only went out on the town one time. Though Seattle's, my favorite coffee shop, had closed there were new places and the usual suspects were perched a their rails engaged in the ritual whirl of practice mating, liver damage and feigned conviviality.

Some asked me how Sweden had been treating me though most confused my country of residence with Switzerland. To them I wove alluring tales of a love affair with a beautiful yodeling champion and my new job in a watch factory. A few figured I had been in Central America (usually confused with South America and occasionally Africa) and some hadn't noticed I'd been gone at all. Not that I blame them, I had changed worlds too often before and was normally only part of theirs' briefly and in passing. To those who are not of your intimate circle you are only a cipher anyway, a collection of half-truths and assumptions based on hearsay, rumor, faulty information and clumsy spying.

So I am what I am and they are what they are and I'm sure all the people I thought I missed are known and loved by someone but that person isn't me. For I am no longer there, no longer part of the local milieu, and the goings on in my life are of no more interest to them than theirs are to me.

I needed to return to see this, to see what I missed in fact and what is more personal myth than reality. I was able to spend time with most of those who are close to me though not all. A month after nearly a year and a half is simply too little time. And now I am back and at first it was a day and then a week and now it has been a month and soon enough another year. I am back into the whirl of my life here, utterly insignificant and of little interest to the denizens of Wooster, Ohio.

The strangest thing, perhaps, is that life overseas is often more or less just like life in the US. Things, as Vincent Vega said so wisely, are just a little bit different. I am looking for work, making time for Lena and my friends, going to school, shopping for groceries, cooking dinner. The world back there is carrying on doing much the same. People I have known will date, break up, marry, move, breed and maybe die and quite possibly I will never know. Someday I may be back there and say to someone,

"Whatever happened to old ---------?"

And there will be an uncomfortable silence before someone says,

"You didn't hear?"


And there will be some sad story of cancer or a car wreck or maybe something weird involving shaving a goat while whisky drunk by an Interstate Highway but with the same sad end and shaking of heads. Or maybe they'll see my friend Jake and think of me and ask, "Whatever happened to old Tonn?" and he'll look at them, take a moment, and say something like,

"Well, I don't really know. The last I saw him he was riding a camel out of Marakesh with two redheads and a bottle of whisky. Some say he's dead, others that he's King of Waziristan..."

Because that, my friends, is all they need to know.