Charlene journal

Copenhagen, Denmark Every time I come back to Denmark, friends here (and in Sweden) will say “welcome home.” It gives me the warm fuzzies. Denmark isn’t technically home, although I’ve spent a lot of time here over the past half decade. I’ve never lived here, nor had the visa to do so. But if home is where the heart is, then Denmark certainly qualifies. My better half is Danish after all, so between his family and the friends I’ve had the pleasure of making over the years, it’s been a place that part of me is so comfortable in, since I stepped into this country for the first time in 2013. I landed in Copenhagen in the middle of November, grateful for all of the …

The air we breathe

Charlene journal

Copenhagen, Denmark It was dusty in Sulaymaniyah, but nothing compared to what I returned to in Singapore. In Suli I learned quickly that I couldn’t inhale through my mouth. Nasal filters needed to deal with that air before it hit my lungs (not the best pair, since a bout of bronchitis in 2013), or I’d be gasping for breath. Then I got back to Singapore. Our government is undertaking an enormous Home Improvement Program in our area that includes giving every household brand new bathrooms – among other things – for the price of a song. It’s a tremendous program, but it did mean that the air in and around the flat was full of fine concrete dust for weeks on end, as hundreds / …

Through the veil

Charlene journal 10 Comments

Remember this epic sandstorm from the last post? Well, that was just a taster of what we (Erin at the wheel, Ashley and me passenging) were in for, the rest of the ride in. The 8 hour journey from Dohuk to Sulaymaniyah was made half in the dark, through windy mountain roads, and a great sea of dust. The dust, thick and persistent as it was, enveloped us in a shroud that made everything outside the car completely surreal, straight out of an episode of the X-Files. Pictures, for your viewing pleasure.

[Fujilove] Night Lights: Iraq

Charlene journal

Originally written for the Fujilove website, published on 28 October 2018 I’ve just returned from a month in northern Iraq, doing some work for an organization called Preemptive Love Coalition. This piece, though, is not about the work but my after-hours in Sulaymaniyah, the city nestled in the mountains of Iraq’s Kurdish region, where I was based. Aside from long-haul transits in plush airports, I’d not been anywhere in the Middle East before this. The impressions I had of Iraq were exclusively news-driven: burning oil fields, military-armed and flak-jacketed to the teeth, faraway plumes of destruction, decimated cities, a despairing population and ISIS, all against the scorching backdrop of desert. But I knew that was only one side of the story, not only because I …

Mountains, deserts and lights

Charlene journal 10 Comments

The title of this post says it all really. I stayed in Sulaymaniyah for the majority of the month I was in Iraq, but there were a few trips outside the city. One of those was an epic 3-day round trip from Sulaymaniyah to Erbil and Dohuk. There were mountains the entire way, and rain storms, and dust storms, and all kinds of crazy drivers. I have about 962 mountain pictures from that one trip alone, since I was in the passenger seat, with nothing to do but take pictures while Erin drove. I filled a memory card with mountains, roads and dust. Most of my shots were crap, but this handful do a decent job of showing what it felt like to look at …

Finding Familiar in Iraq

Charlene journal

Iraqi Kurdistan, October 2018 It threatened to storm as we breakfasted in Erbil. Instead of grey though, the world faded to a dull orange in the Iraqi Kurdish capital. Flat topped buildings stretch to the edge of the desert, ending in the reddish murk. I wasn’t sure if the storm was bringing dust or rain. Some incredible weather followed Erin and I from Sulaymaniyah (Suli for short) to Dohuk, stopping at Erbil in between. We’d taken smaller roads to stay inside Kurdish boundaries, as my visa didn’t allow me to enter the rest of Iraq. The relentless sunshine of the first day gave way to this brooding gloom on the second. By the time Erin and I were out of Erbil’s plains and into the …

Snapshots from Sulaymaniyah

Charlene journal 6 Comments

Sulaymaniyah, Iraq Whatever ideas I might have had about Iraq, they were always set against a stark desert background, like the one in the above picture. There is some truth to that, but as in most cases of roads travelled behind a screen, that is a thread in the fabric. I’ve been in Iraq now for 4.5 days as I write this post. I’m here in the city of Sulaymaniyah, in Kurdistan, working with Preemptive Love Coalition for a month. This is a dream opportunity, and between “omg I’m in Iraq” and “omg I’m here with the Preemptive Love people” you’ve got the bulk of what’s been happening in my head. In the last half-week or so I’ve just been absorbing as many inputs as …

Set in motion

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Singapore The wheels start turning again. The past month has been about taking stock, counting costs, starting some things and shutting others down. Same process i went through almost 6 years ago, embarking on this itinerant life. Today I make a month long trip i never imagined myself making, ever. Doing something i never figured I’d get the opportunity to do. More to come. (I’m being oblique because it’s too much to get into while heading to the airport, and but mostly because there are so many things going on, it is impossible to be cogent about any of it) (Waiting, that’s the worst)

Domestic blindness

Charlene journal 12 Comments

…is a bitch. Half the time i think my job as/the whole point of being a photographer is to find life in the blindingly ordinary, the stuff I don’t think about, ever. Because if I can’t see a different possibility, then I can’t ask another to do the same. You gotta do the work, you know? This place above? I walk through that concrete portal everyday. To eat at the hawker center, to catch the bus or train, to walk out into the world, and to come back home through it. 80% of us in this country walk through spaces like that everyday. The void decks of our public housing apartment blocks contain waypoints of our daily lives. And they too can bring out blockbuster …