The US east coast in self-portraits

Things have been so hectic that only now I can find the time to go through the pictures I took on this amazing trip. Starting on 17 May, I spent a month travelling down along the east coast of the United States, together with a friend. We visited New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Charleston, Charlotte and New Orleans. I was especially thrilled to visit New Orleans; it had been on my bucket list for a long time. Also, while in New York we took a trip to Asbury Park, N.J., which was just a few hours by train away from the Big Apple. It was a small pilgrimage to the neighbourhood of one of my heroes, Bruce Springsteen, who grew up around there and launched his career from the Asbury Park boardwalk.

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Shutterspeed: Southeast Wales

 

Last summer I passed through Wales on my way to England, stopping at the Hay-on-Wye literary festival to meet up with some of my former colleagues from the publishing house where I did my internship. What a welcoming sight the rolling green hills presented while the plane touched down at Cardiff Airport, and how heartening to see the words Croeso y Cymru (“welcome to Wales”) emblazoned on the walls in the arrivals hall! I was so happy to be back then, even if just for a day or two, and even now I often think back to the time when rambling through the beautiful Welsh landscape with just my camera and a packed lunch was my go-to activity on weekends. During my stay in Swansea in 2016, my mother and her partner visited me and together we went on a week-long tour of the south of Wales, passing through Carmarthenshire on our way to Pembrokeshire and back through the Brecon Beacons. As you may have guessed, I took plenty of photos along the way, some of which I want to share here below.

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Blast from the Past: WWII in photographs

As I roam the internet daily for interesting World War II-related histories I come across a lot of photos. Usually, I save them, but I never really do anything with them. After reading Susan Sontag’s Regarding the Pain of Others last week, an essay on war photography, I thought it would be interesting to pick out fifteen photographs from my collection that I find beautiful or startling.

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Essay: Made to last? – The Jedi texts, totalitarianism and book burning in The Last Jedi

I wrote a short essay about the portrayal of the sacred Jedi texts as paper books in the new Star Wars movie, and how this relates to totalitarianism and the resistance against it. It’s available to read here on Medium.com. Needless to say, spoilers for The Last Jedi.

Excerpt:

Could we imagine that there were once many paper copies of the Jedi texts, which every Jedi was required to own? Would the Empire, and the First Order after it, apply the same censure that the Nazis did, campaigning to destroy all paper copies in the galaxy? The choice the creators of the new trilogy made to go with paper books is certainly an interesting one. Why, in a futuristic society like that of the Star Wars galaxy, where people fly in space ships and use digital interfaces everywhere (even in the 1970s movies), would the sacred Jedi writings be captured in perishable paper books? Why not in a more enduring format like stone or metal tablets, or on some type of holographic device stored in an R2-unit, or even carved into a wall? To my knowledge, these are the first examples of physical reading material in the Star Wars movies. When we see them on screen, they appear to be colourful leather-bound books that might also be the collected works of Dickens or Austen. For the viewer, seeing ancient books on screen immediately communicates that they are valuable, authoritative, precious, and vulnerable: they seem distinctly human in a movie that is chock full of aliens and futuristic apparatuses. So why was it so symbolic for Luke to destroy them, and why did Rey save them if she already had all the knowledge she needed to get on? After all, once the people in charge decide that Torah rolls are of more use in a leather factory to patch up the soles of German soldiers’ boots, or that the letters of Tolstoy may as well be used to wrap fish in the marketplace, how do they retain their credibility? The situation only requires for one person to decide that what is written down must be preserved for future generations, when those who have the knowledge in their heads are gone.

Shutterspeed: Kuala Lumpur

In 2015 I travelled to New Zealand and Indonesia, an incredible trip which led to the start of this blog. To cut the 24-hour flight to Auckland in half we decided to take 48 hours off in the city where we had to transfer, Kuala Lumpur. As it turned out, 48 hours were enough, Southeast Asian cities being what they are – noisy, busy and rather smelly – but Kuala Lumpur was well worth a visit nonetheless, presenting a unique mixture of different religions, architecture styles and cuisines.

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Shutterspeed: Zürich

Four years ago my mum and I went to visit my sister in Zürich, Switzerland. She was doing an internship there and we had decided to take the night train from the Netherlands to Zürich, which would drop us off right in the middle of the city after about ten hours. I spent the visit mostly trotting after the other two and trying to figure out how my new camera worked.

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Shutterspeed: Suomenlinna

Given that there’s only one month the Fins can properly call ‘summer’, it might be a bit of a stretch to call Suomenlinna, a former military bastion just off the coast of Helsinki, a little holiday paradise. Yet there was still plenty to see when I visited there in April earlier this year, though it was clear that its inhabitants, museums and shops were awaiting the warmer weather and the influx of tourists which then still seemed a long way off.

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