Working as a Global Citizen

The more assignments I take on the East Coast, the more I’ve been thinking, “Why not just live here year round?”

On yet another escapade to the East Coast for a few freelance photo jobs, I’ve started to scope out the real estate scene in NYC from Astoria (Queens) to Brooklyn to the unobtainable Manhattan rent prices. What I’ve come to learn is that finding an apartment does not happen over night…

While I flip-flop in search of a place to call home, I was lucky enough to partner with citizenM hotels and take refuge in their Manhattan location for a few days while I gained my bearings and endured a very unexpected blizzard as well! citizenM & I exchanged tales of my experiences in Manhattan and discovered how their location is prime for visiting artists and art enthusiasts like me.

You might think Midtown is too bustling and central of a location for you to rest, but after working with citizenM, I can say I was lifted out and above the spectacle of Manhattan and had my own apartment to breathe. 

 

Waking up in Midtown already put me at the center of every direction I would need to go. Whether I was visiting friends in Brooklyn, photographing in the East Village, or exploring Central Park, nothing was out of reach for me. I was at a spot where almost any major train is within a few blocks, which made cutting through Manhattan a breeze. An added bonus was having MoMA down the street filled with one of the world's greatest collection of artist books, which I visited twice because I had so much to see.

And then the blizzard loomed... Not so surprisingly, the city refused to come to a complete pause, despite the rising snow. Though driving was discouraged, no one could stop the other 'citizens' and I as we ventured in and out of our Midtown fortress to take a quick dive in the snow mounds, before retreating back inside. Nothing quite like coming in from the snow and watching it fall with a cup of coffee. 

Thankfully, this blizzard gave me an excuse to have a bit of time for myself and kickback while working from the perches all over the hotel, high and low. It reminded me I should kick-back and relax more often! 

citizenM is originally a Dutch company and they have locations all over the world... I hope to work with them again when I'm on my next project abroad!  

Where will I wake up tomorrow?

Where will I wake up tomorrow?

Freitag x Vasilko Feature

Very excited to see my feature on Freitag's website this week! When Freitag originally heard word that I would be traveling to Norway to research and document the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, they jumped at the chance to help me make the trip possible. Their gear carried me through some rough terrains and I'm thrilled I could take their products to places it has never been before. Check out the feature here: https://www.freitag.ch/en/svalbard

Side note: Something that didn't receive as much attention was my short residency at Zoku Amsterdam, a new hotel aimed towards global entrepreneurs. I alongside the Zoku marketing team flagshipped a Zoku Artist in Residence program. Starting from my long-shot of a proposal in which I suggested free living in exchange for bringing photo & design skill into the Zoku branding, we created a program that will continue to host artists from around the world. In return for using their talent to beautify Zoku and spread the Zoku idea of gathering and exchanging ideas between global guests, artists will be given the space to pursue their own creative endeavors in Amsterdam. 

You never know where you'll end up in a week's time.

  • 9AM: Phone of a sleepy freelance photographer rings 
  • Freelance photographer shuts phone off; 9AM is too early for him
  • 9:30AM: Phone rings again
  • With a few grunts, freelance photographer aggressively silences his phone again.
  • 10AM: Phone rings once more
  • Finally, freelance photographer answers:
    •  "HELLO, WHAT?"
  • Startled by the aggression, caller explains the urgency.
    • "What would you say if you & I went to Paris next week, Lucas..."  

And so, little did I expect at 10 in the morning one a week ago from today, I found out I would be traveling to Paris, all expenses paid. *cue falling to the ground* 

My friend Nik, pictured ominously above, runs a small design studio, Nikolas Bentel Studio. What he had just been informed before making that surprising call to me was that one of his former projects had been selected to feature in a collective designer show at Paris Fashion Week 2017... and the show was happening in 5 days! 

Before I knew it, my e-ticket was in my inbox and we were en route.  

The group show, Prototype, culminated the works of 6 speculative designers who each conceived clothing designs thinking towards a drastically different, yet not so implausible, future. The show was co-sponsored by the upcoming movie Ghost in the Shell, which depicts a future of computer robotic advances and cyber threats, starring Scarlett Johansson.

All 6 featured designers' works.

Nik's project revolves around the idea of an increasing presence of pollution in our atmosphere and developing a line of clothing that can react and alert you to the level of pollutants in the air. Though his project still rests in the conceptual phase, he created prototype designs and a video demonstrating how the clothing reacts visually to various airborne pollutants.

Though our trip was quick.. like 3 days quick.. we squeezed in more than our fair share of excursions, including le Musée Rodin, la Sainte Chapelle, and le Palais de Tokyo. It was hilarious and humbling to see Nik outside of the typical setting that we have always known each other in; showing him around a city that, though I cannot call it a second home, exudes all the reasons I'm proud to be French. 

Congrats, ol' chap! 

Lost & Found Pieces Coming Together

I often allow images and other content to stew & sit out-of-mind for a while, offering some time for reflection before drawing final conclusions about what the content conveys. I recently came across a short 9 second video on my phone that captured the accumulation of rain & melting ice waters at a time when Svalbard should have been well into its winter weather patterns. But as a changing climate looms, areas like Svalbard are some of the most drastically impacted. For me, this clip is a powerful memory from my time in Svalbard. 

I'm thinking of how stills or textures from this video could serve as a possible design element moving forward. At the time, I didn't think anything of this video, but now it may end up playing a role after all. It goes to show you never know what you will and will not use when out in the field gathering content & material.  

If I ever am fortunate enough to return to Svalbard for a longer period of time, I'm thinking a series of smaller videos of that paths from running waters could make a powerful blend if they were displayed in sequence or several videos displayed at once.  

Going into Svalbard, I was so focused on the one entity of the Vault that I didn't foresee how many other moving parts to the region were all in sync with each other; if one part fails, then so does the Vault. Rising temperatures and increases in rain pose a threat to the Vault and the ecosystem of the island. I'm excited to tell the story of the island and arriving at the doors of the Vault amidst an unknown and unsure landscape. 

 

 

I'm also starting to think about possible type faces that I can use to write the introductory text and explanation of how I came to find myself in Svalbard in the first place. I sorted out images from the Island that had peculiar and striking text examples, but also text that derives from places integral to the history of Svalbard's. The following four images are from the coal mines of Svalbard, which were the main reason people came to settle there. 

Here's a peak into part of the layout map that I think only I can read.. might look like a chopped up mess, but this thing is a very useful sequencing cheat-sheet for me as I connect image to image. 

As a side note, my good friend Philipp from Svalbard has been bringing his Svalbard guiding business to fruition, and I'd love to help him get the word out farther. If you're looking not only for a one of a kind adventure of intense hikes or husky sledding expeditions, I would tell you that you have to go to Svalbard and my man Philipp is the guy to give you a personal and extraordinary guided adventure. Check him out & get to planning a trip you won't regret. So lucky to have met him, and I can't wait until I get to go back! Here is his site:   

https://polardogssvalbard.com/about/

Pocket Sized

As a preliminary experiment with my images from Svalbard & the Global Seed Vault, I fastened miniature booklets conveying an eleven image sequence of the Vault and its presence within the larger landscape. I'm thinking about which influences which, the Vault vs. everything that surrounds it. Though it may be just a small gash in the mountain side, everything that lies within the Vault has the power to influence a global landscape. In the overall scheme, it feels like the Vault and it's landscape are in a constant flux of protection and power. 

Where have you been, Mister??

I bet you thought you were done with me, huh? Well, think again!!  I'm back, out of hiding, and here to cook up all sorts of treats from my trip to Svalbard & the Global Seed Vault. I may have made a pit stop or two.. or three.. before returning home, but now it's time to start of the fire and head to the studio! 

My head is pulsing with memories not only from the Seed Vault and everyone I met in Svalbard, but from the exhibits, artists, bookstores, and sights throughout Scandinavia that have inevitably affected how I want to approach not just my Svalbard book, but future projects as well. As you see below, my studio tables, floors, and just about any vacant flat surface are covered in small test prints to help me see connections between images that I might not realize from simply looking at them on a computer screen. Move an image here, swap some from left to far right, overlay a few and then realize it looks ridiculous and put them all back, and then try again... that's how it goes and what the next few days will consist of. Before I think about structure, I've got to think about story & sequence; my three "S" policy, if you will.  

Though I'm still coping through the mental headache of sequencing and establishing a book of the Seed Vault and its relation to the landscape, I've begun to give myself exercises in experimenting how the images can possibly coexist with each other. The first experiment is taking form in a 12 image accordion narrative that navigates in and out from the front doors of the Vault to the greater region of Svalbard; where the images take place in proximity to each other isn't so much the focus, more so its the rich array of color, texture, and echo of the region where the Vault resides.

Through the chaos of unpredicted warming temperatures at the time of my visit to Svalbard and how future occurrences of this warming climate might affect Svalbard, I'm definitely going to heighten the theme of a landscape in distress and confusion in the final product. Navigating through Svalbard, taking you on a blind pursuit..

If you're viewing this on a mobile device, rotate horizontally to get the full width & effect of the images:

Behold the template image that I'll carve my first set of experiments out of... 

You Know Me Well, Zoku

For weeks I had been meaning to buy a pair of scissors along one of the stops on my trip. It sounds like no big deal, but it had been on the back burner of my mind for weeks. From Svalbard, to Oslo, to Copenhagen, I needed a damn pair of scissors to work into a few scraps of ideas as I slowly plan towards my book for the Global Seed Vault. This was one of those things you'd never need when abroad, but of course I find myself in constant demands of the trivialities that your typical traveler does not. A "photographer" *cringe,* an "artist" *rolls eyes,* but most of all an excess baggage traveler *large sigh* is how I see myself every time I leave the house, let alone the country. I'm that guy with a backpack heavier than his own weight, always cramming just one more thing into the overhead bin because god forbid I check a bag and share the space. And I needed a pair scissors once and for all. 

After weeks of bed hopping from the Arctic, to Oslo, the countryside of Norway, and then Copenhagen, I finally found relief and comfort at Zoku.. but most of all, a pair of scissors waiting for me in my room!! With no prior request, Zoku Lofts was the place prepared for that traveler like me, someone always in need of the extraneous tools to spur a bit more of unpredictable creativity forward. 

Zoku, because 99% chance says you haven't been there (yet 😉) is a start up hotel in the city skies of Amsterdam. Located at the top of a building overlook away from the hectic city center, more and more visitors, entrepreneurs and designers are learning to live Zoku. Let me explain how one achieves this: 

Hop on a plane, have an idea, any idea of a project or business plan or rock star dream or just a desire to meet other rising creatives, and head to Zoku. Their mission statement is simple but all the while powerful: to mix together like-minded individuals under one roof – aligning international guests with internationally minded locals.

Here, I had the time and space to not only hunt down one or two.. or three or four more artist book venues around the city, but I finally had a space to bring it all back to and very literally lay it out on the table and think to myself: what can I learn from the rising Euro artist book culture. 

The staff at Zoku really encourages the entire hotel to feel like your home, with a sense of 8 or 9 unique living room and dining spaces all joined together. This led me to meet a diverse but equally passionate group of people all working towards projects they believe in and want to share. 

During my stay, I worked with Zoku to explore and feature the group of spots and shops that I experienced as one of a kind to Amsterdam and the incredible mix of old and new pushing up against one another. 

Check out the list below, and put some thought towards Zoku if you're ever in town. Hell, I'll go with you!

Wildernis

A local plant shoppe & café overflowing with peculiar plants and tools for personalizing any space to accommodate an abundance of greenery. Though it may only be two years old, it seemed to me that this is going to be one of those stores that will become a cornerstone of the neighborhood as the years pass. 

Bar Botanique

Café by day, bar by night, Bar Botanique is a contemporary  tropical setting far off the beaten path from tourists. It offers the relaxing vibes we all dream of when wanting to kick back under the palms within a city. 

Retro & Chic

One of the most tastefully curated vintage clothing stores that I have come across, and I'm not just speaking in terms of Amsterdam. Retro & Chic wasn't on any of the travel blogs that I researched beforehand, which maybe explains why it felt like such a hidden gem and discovery to me. I admired the owner's, Kim Laura de Jong, story behind her shop: coming from parents who had their own problems-turned-obsessions with hoarding.  As she learned to hoard hand-crafted items of her travels and her country, the owner eventually turned the habit her parents left her with and channeled it into a consistently excellent and unique shop that is celebrating it's 12th year. Right before I left, Kim exhaled in saying, "It's nice being able to make a living out of something you love."

Loekie Delicatessen

I think befriending a fromager in every city should be in the go-to travel rulebook. Loekie is fromagerie running on its fourth decade in Amsterdam, passed down onto it's third generation of the original owner. Though much of Amsterdam may feel like its changing to accommodate the spike in tourism and the city's transition into a global market, places like Loekie maintain the memory and charm of historic Amsterdam. 

Rik Van Houten

It might look like Rik Van Houten has held its ground in Amsterdam for decades but the shop is actually only on it's second year in business. Before it's time, this space used to be a knife shop. When Rik bought the space, some of the equipment left behind proved useful, but it certainly required time to make the store into what it is today. "It took a lot when getting started, but now the shop is bringing in visitors and customers from around the world."

Huis Marseille

Yes, you have your fair share of options when it comes to museums in Amsterdam, yet Huis Marseille certainly cried out to me as one of the most unique to the city. Featuring rising dutch contemporary photographers, this space cultivates a strong sense of Dutch aesthetics and stores an incredible library/store of photography artist books of local and global photographers. You feel like you can get lost in the narrow but tall space that feels as if it escalates to four or five or six levels of gallery spaces.. you leave not sure if you in fact found all the levels that this museum offers.