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Martin Edström Blog

Pictures, thoughts and a global perspective.


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Earth Hour Symbolism
Shutting down; shouldn't we be gearing up?Many things can be said about the upcoming Earth Hour, when we shut down all electric equipment for an hour between 20:30-21:30. It's amazing that so many cities have agreed to shut things down; devotion have never been so great for a common cause, that of environmental concern, before. With even the Eiffel tower shutting down, you can really sense a movement.But is it enough, to promote this single hour? Of course the value won't be shown in power saved; one hour doesn't save anything compared to what we spend other days. The value will show in the way people, hopefully, start thinking. But this will be tricky, as it is way too easy to sit in the dark for an hour, and then return to a normal way of life in which lamps are switched on 24/7, computers stand running and iPod-chargers are always plugged in. A campaign like this can not come without a massive follow-up; what companies have advertised about today, they need to stick with tomorrow. It's not about unplugging today for an hour. It's about taking a stand for the future.I've heard lots of different views on the matter. A dear friend of mine who's broadcasting radio, actually brought this up the other day in his show. He interviewed a woman responsible for environmental concerns in Stockholm - and about their decision not to partake in the event. Apparently she didn't have a good answer, simply asking my friend about how he contributes on a daily basis. But in only refusing to partake, I believe they make a point as well - a point that has to be made.Another blogger further form this point - by listing the bad facts about shutting down the earth for an hour. And together with the cities not partaking, they do prove a very strong point. Here though, is where the power of symbolism comes in. It should never be underestimated. Shutting Earth down probably won't change most people's ways. Computers will stay on, and lamps will lighten the skies as much as yesterday. But in making this a global event - the symbolic power will indeed change things. People will surely remember the Eiffel, the Empire State building - an hell, their whole town - going black. All for the sake of the earth we all share.So do this; shut things down. Make some coffee while you still can. Just remember that it's not really about the hour in darkness today that matters; but the days, weeks, months and years ahead. Spend your energy wisely tomorrow. Gear up. Change the bulbs, take a walk. And take your time. Because if we're to save this planet of ours, it will take more than 60 minutes.MARTIN EDSTRÖM

The Facebook Phenomenon
The Facebook Phenomenon - tearing down our wallsJonatan had a nice breakfast, it seems. Suzie seems to be younger than in real life, according to a test. George is telling Erik about the definition of work. Huh. Why should I care? I don't know. But I do.Sometimes we get too much, but most often not. We need it. Interaction. It's a matter of basic instincts really; we need food, water, roof - and someone to listen to whatever we feel like saying. As you read this, you're most probably somehow alone; chances are you're at home, "relaxing", taking some time on the Internet. And it's almost as probable that there's a closed door behind you. And we sure need this door. There's a huge world out there, and we need to escape it. But within seconds from getting inside our secure place, within the thick walls - we tear them down. Facebook, Twitter - whatever really - instantly brings us back to the global village that we're all a part of. Anand Giridharadas compares this to an Indian village, where everyone knows everything about everyone. He's spot on. Growing up with Internet as a constant factor, I've always been so used to the global possibilities - that I've almost forgotten how we need the small, close, interaction as well. So by adding my friends and co-workers - even my employers - as friends on Facebook, I tear down those thick walls of my house. Suddenly, I'm up close again - with all my friends within the reach of a click. The community is growing strong in the welfare areas of the world; tearing down walls where they've gotten to thick.So in talking to everyone about anything, we do reach out. We broaden our world. Why, what would we do without Facebook? Call everyone and take a five minute chit-chat? Not 2009, oh no. Yet online, we speak to long-lost friends as if they were indeed next-door; and listen to them talk with other people, as if the walls were indeed made of bamboo. Suddenly, everyone is living next-door. Yes - there is a huge world out there; so we keep the doors. When the walls feel too thick, choking our need for social interaction; we've got Facebook. And in our hectic lives, it truly has a vital function. In uploading our party-pictures of drunken friends, we're not mean - exposing them to the world. We bring them close, and do them a favor. Status-updates give an index to who's home, what they're doing - to the point where "Hey, what's up" is not longer needed. We already know.Used correctly, this could seriously save you some time. Even if you've just met a girl, you know everything about her. Why ask? Facebook tells. And when you wonder what she wants for breakfast the morning after, but don't have time to ask in person, ironically you don't have to. And she doesn't need to answer. Because as you both know, Facebook will.MARTIN EDSTRÖM

Abandon ship! JMK is going down
Ever since I started at JMK in Stockholm - the "top" journalistic insitute in Sweden - I've wondered where the action was. Did I miss some lessons, the ones I'd been looking forward to? Or was this it? As course upon course proves to be mostly reading on your own, I can't help but wonder what happened. When people talk of the institute a couple of years back, they talk about an education that makes you a journalist - a hard, long and sometimes backbreaking journey leading into one of the hardest professions of the world. And it should be. With modern media converting news reporting into an iReport chaos, we need first class people to deliver us the news.This is nothing like what I've felt at JMK. Endless talk of modern theories of mass communication, studies of the gender aspects of journalism and surveys about internet as a medium; these things have replaced what I want to learn, and thought I would. I feel I'm pretty much formed to become a cultural scientist; encouraged not to get out there - to listen, analyze and report back to the world - but instead to spend evenings reading reports on Cultural Studies.Where are the basic elements of journalistic work? Where are the lesson about how to cover a war for a reader, how to battle streamlined reporting and on whether journalism today should be about people, or about politics? How can we have achieved a good balance between theoretical and practical, if one part is not there at all? We learn lots about the Frankfurt School; nothing of how to meet and reach a person. We learn even more about today's news values; less about what should in fact be valued. We're taught so much about critically discerning selling news from bad-selling news, that the main distinction is lost on the horizon. What makes a good journalist? After a year at JMK, I still have no idea.This trend, sadly, seems only the start. A conflict has raged the institution for some time, with some teachers voting for a more practical programme; some for the academic one, with focus on media studies. Four of the practical teachers have been fired. Left behind are the professors, though probably well read and appreciated as experts, who aren't really fit for training our future frontline reporters.The world needs journalists with intuitively active minds, trained to discern what's important and pass it on to citizens; we're instead training academics to run our future media market. There will be no global reporters, skilled in digging up important stories, emerging from this. We have to change the trend, or we will get stuck. Stuck with academic schooling, book-smart reporters, pompous papers. And worst of all - if this continues; it heralds a new era for young journalists. On their first day at JMK, they won't be handed a pen - but an already written piece of paper.To be continued...MARTIN EDSTRÖM

Holy Might may not be right
What does Pope Benedict XVI have in common with other celebrities?He can shape young people's opinion in a heartbeat. One with that power, should choose his words wisely.Catholic youngsters all over the world see their papa as holy, and what he says as truth. As the countries of Africa welcome him, they also welcome his words on how to fight HIV/AIDS. And this time, those words will not be to anyone's benefit. Least of all, to those addressed."You can't resolve it with the distribution of condoms," the pope told reporters aboard the plane heading to Yaoundé. "On the contrary, it increases the problem."-- New York Times 17th of March 2009The first part is true indeed; condoms alone won't solve the problem. However, it will play a large part. In the cultures with traditions of polygamic relationships - as many sub-saharan african cultures are - condoms play a vital role in the prevention of HIV. People have sex, wheter the Pope likes it or not. The second part - that condoms increase the problem - is a horrible error of speech, of mind. Not only does it refer to an already established view; that of condoms leading to a lack of conduct. It also effectively disarms all the work being done in affected parts of the african continents. As you drive down a road in, say, Zambia - huge posters promote condoms. Large national campaigns promote the use of them. All the international organisations working against HIV see condoms as a huge, and proven method, of preventing the spread of the HI-virus. Health workers and politicians alike work hard to incorporate the cheap latex solution in the daily lives of people - and have come a long way in building a wall of prevention. The Holy Father tore this wall down, easily, all in a single breath.Whatever the direct or indirect consequences might be, it singles down to one single man. Problem is, he's head of a huge religion - which grows stronger in africa by the minute. Young people hearing him talk, will listen. And as words are passed on, the retrogressive views will affect how people think of HIV. One must realize, that this disease takes approx. 5-6000 lives every day. Today. 2009. Even if we're not religious, or not believers at all, let us pray - pray that the words of this holy man does not spread as fast as the virus itself.MARTIN EDSTRÖMGood sites on the issue:IAS - International AIDS SocietyNew York Times article

Photo exhibit and film launch
Fancy food and hot airThe last couple of days I spent traveling, first to Washington D.C. and then to Canada, for Montreal. I went with Ophelia, as we released her finished documentary Together We Can!, and exhibited my pictures diplaying the making of it.My pictures were exhibited at the Newseum.At the events we made contact with lots of interesting people, of which I hope to begin working with several. Among the plates of food there was hot air indeed, but a lot of determination as well. As it comes to HIV/AIDS-related issues, it seems bureaucracy can sometimes be overthrown by simple, strong devotion. If none other, Ophelia herself would be a great example of this.

AIDS2008 in Mexico City - with focus on Ophelia Haanyama
AIDS2008 Conference, Mexico CityIn five hectic days the enormous conference and event of AIDS 2008 took place in the beginning of August at the Centro Banamex in Mexico City. With about 25 000 visitors from all over the world - country leaders, chairmen of major corporations and pharmaceutical companies, activists, doctors, nurses, patients and several thousands of media representatives the conference turned the capital of Mexico into a teeming hub. I followed Ophelia Haanyama as her personal photographer.The many speeches and seminars were held by highly involved people, such as Bill Clinton in the picture above. Ban Ki-moon, the head of the UN and Margaret Chan, the head of the WHO were two others. Focus of many debates was centered on what we've accomplished so far in terms of prevention of HIV - and what we have to put our focus on in the immediate future. The conference's main slogan and theme was "UNIVERSAL ACTION NOW!", which was hard to miss. Most speakers emphasized the importance of people waking up, pointing out the many time-consuming aspects of the medical hardships.My portrait of Ophelia in Lusaka, Zambia - March 2008The trip gave many possibilities for interesting portraits, with little or no time at all to plan ahead. Following Ophelia to document her many meetings, debates and the release session of her documentary "TOGETHER WE CAN!" gave several new stages to my work around her - complementing the pictures from our tour of Africa in March 2008.Read more about Ophelia and see more of my photos on www.noaksark.org/ophelia.

Dakar
Dakar, SenegalAfter leaving the beautiful isles of Cabo Verde behind us, we flew to DKR - Dakar - in Senegal. Stepping out into the middle of 20 or 30 taxidrivers all eager to help us made our first hour quite hectic - but we finally managed to get to the hotel in the middle of the Sacre Coeur district.A city framed by mud walls and many highways, Dakar seems an impossible place to understand. When asking for a map, you simply get the answer "A map, over Dakar? Why?". Yet everyone seems to know the neighborhood. Every corner boasts a street vendor showing off his mangoes, and the muslim taxidrivers are always present. The lack of safe cars is just as obvious - it's a wonder most taxi's can even start their engines. With help from Alaji, a local guide based on the Ile de Goree, we went to several beautiful sights of the capital city. From the saharan dunes to the many mosques scattered everywhere Dakar is an impressive city - with splendors as well as downsides. Districts of slum and huge piles of garbage appear almost wherever you go - and there's no escaping the flies. But once you get to feel the rythm, and the cicadas start buzzing at sunset, your spirits settle. Quite a calm place, in spite of the bustling visible surface.

West African Paradise
Tarrafal, Santiago After a couple of days rest on Boa Vista, we´re now back in action. Thanks to TACV, the local airline, we´ve been able to do some serious island-hopping - which has landed us on the capital island of Santiago. Until just a couple of years ago, this WAS Cape Verde. Founded by pirates and seafarers, it´s now a vibrating hub with a mixture of local fishermen and farmers, businessmen and entrepeneurs. You can see some signs of tourism, but it´s mainly untouched here. Some know english, but without knowledge of the local Creole language you are very limited. Passing through Praia, the capital city, we´re currently in Tarrafal on the northern shore. With mountains framing the scenery, the town is small and quiet - with a large beach being the main social spot. At night everyone gathers here, playing games, swimming and relaxing together. Seems a total bliss. Young boys daring each other to dive from cliffs, and small girls trying the chilly Atlantic waters. And they´re all locals. Not a tourist in sight. Laughter everywhere, and curiosity towards me - holding cameras that seem out of this world. A photographer´s dream.An overwhelming calm sensation lurks here, especially at night. Cicadas play from trees, waves roll onto the shore. You feel safe, at peace. And when you gaze out over the water - the night is truly pitch black.

Breathing the moment
Pico da Cruz, Santo Antao The last two days we´ve been walking and driving around the island, taking shots in several villages while trying to capture the beautiful landscape. As always, there´s no real way of capturing on a photo what you see in reality - but some shots truly reflect the beauty of this island. In the sometimes arid landscape of the island Santo Antao, the forests are prone to burn now and then. This strecth of forest, close to Pico da Cruz, had been in a fire really recently - you could still smell the smoke.Tomorrow we leave Santo Antao, to go for the island of Boa Vista. There we will meet the miles of white beaches, and a more modest landscape than the dramatic one we´re currently living in.

Gone fishing
Outside Ponta do Sol, Santo Antao Being an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, the main occupation for men and women on Santo Antao is fishing. Every morning the fishermen set out, stay out on the waves for several hours at a time, and then bring home loads of fish to sell directly to restaurants and on the market. This morning we got the priviliege to follow them out in a boat. We went up at 5AM, and motored out of the marina at 6. You really feel diminished when sitting out at sea, as these men do every single day. Even on a calm day, waves go high - and throw the small wooden boat up and down. As we foreigners get sick and throw up - the old men just sit and stand as they please, no matter what. Tough, and worn. And extremely good at what they do. With lines, lures, live bait, nets and the occasional dive with a harpoon they provide the community with white and black tuna, serra, mackarell, lobster and numerous other fish. The techniques are astonishingly simple. However, our boat doesn´t have much luck today - a small red-and-blue spotted snapper being our only prize. Other boats bring in loads, and sometimes even a sword- or sawfish. The children stand waiting at the dock, eager to see what their father and grandfather will bring home today. After reaching land the fish is immideately taken care of, or else the sun would turn the fish bad in an instant. This is our captain for the day. Not speaking even one word of english, we have a hard time speaking to him. He´s a kind man, wanting to tell us about his boat and especially his motor. The only thing we clearly understand is that his motor was imported from Holland, but the rest we don´t get. He seems a proud man, and his face tells many a tale. Just too bad we don´t know the Creole well enough to hear them. At the end of the day - we come to shore with an uneasy belly but a bunch of great pictures. And of course, with clothes and cameras totally covered in saltwater and stains from fish, blood and bait. Thank the gods that my camera-equipment is watertight...


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