Oslo Metropolitan Diary - February 12, 2019

I was driving through the Opera Tunnel towards the east end to look at one last apartment after a week of looking. I’d gotten a job in the city and so was moving my nature-loving girlfriend to the last place in Norway she’d expected to live.

Our search was not going well. With just my starting salary between us, we were priced out because I insisted on a second bedroom for family visits. We’d seen paint peeling from a bathroom ceiling, obscure utility payment schemes, and a balcony so close to E6 I bet I could have overheard the news from commuters’ cars as they went by. It was the city, exactly what my girlfriend had never wanted – and I was the one bringing her here.

It was with this feeling that I drove to Bøler for our final viewing. The owner of the apartment met us at the door and showed us around. It was two bedrooms, quiet, with a balcony that overlooked the woods and ski-in/ski-out access to a forest full of trails. My girlfriend was sold.

We went for a walk in the woods to talk it over. It was sunny and warm in late August. People were out on the trails, walking, running, and biking. I could hear children playing. It was perfect, better than what we had imagined possible, but the rent was beyond our already extended budget. We were worried there wouldn’t be enough left over.

We turned to head home. An elderly Norwegian man came along with his dog. To my surprise, he looked at me and gave me the slightest of nods – strictly against social norms in the city. I smiled, nodded back, and took my girlfriend’s hand.

"Did you see that?" I said.

"We can make it work," she said. We turned down all our other offers when we came to the car and signed at Bøler. 

For the first few months, I took sandwiches to work instead of eating at the cantina. We bought First Price everything and stayed in on weekends until my girlfriend found work and I got a raise. A few months after that, the owner called us and said she wanted to sell. We took a walk, called back, and said we wanted to buy.

Oslo Metropolitan Diary – February 7, 2019

One of my favorite features of the Times is the Metropolitan Diary which they publish each Tuesday. If you haven’t read it, a quick synopsis is that it contains brief accounts of encounters NYC residents have with each other, whether as an observer or participant. I was inspired enough that I thought to create my own version for Oslo. One entry a week, published each Tuesday by 5:00 PM Central European Time. I am late this week, but I wanted to post nonetheless. Next edition will be released February 12. Now, without further ado…

A Caught Glove

Dear Diary,

I’d forgotten to check the timetables and so was early for the T-Bane on a freeze-the-inside-of-your-nose kind of morning. I stamped around the platform to keep warm, watching the snow fall so slowly it seemed at some moments to almost float in the dark air.

When the train came, snow sparkling behind like a cape, a woman deep in a fur hood stepped off with a mitten dangling from a catch on her jacket. I took an open seat next to some Polish workers talking together, arms folded over hi-viz overalls. As the doors began to close, I saw the hooded woman, already a few steps from the train, notice the mitten, turn on her toes, and fling it towards the narrowing gap. It flew end over end, passed through the doors just before they squeezed shut, and traced a parabola right onto the owner’s lap.

In quiet awe, everyone in the train car watched the owner hold up the mitten in surprised recognition. Then the train pulled away, leaving the woman on the platform undoubtably feeling triumphant. The Poles and I exchanged a glance in acknowledgement of the impressive display of agility and compassion, then they resumed talking, I slipped a book from my pack, and the owner tucked the mitten into her coat pocket and bent back over her phone.

— Mark Watkins

Reykjavik: Street Portaits

I'm a 2015 Word in Focus winner

Very excited to announce that my photo above was chosen as a winner in the 2015 World in Focus competition. It's an honor to be among some of these photographers. Take a second to look through the other winners work. You won't be disappointed.

I snapped this photo during took a walk I took down the beach on the last day of a trip to Playa de Carmen in 2014. Most of the beachfront is taken over by resorts and hotels, but the locals have held on to a small strand where fresh water empties into a shallow cove. Little kids splash around in the brackish water, vendors sell grilled meats and vegetables on sticks, and older men, sitting with their feet in the water, drink Sol of out small bottles. I walked around making pictures, stretching my Spanish far beyond its limits, and marking how slowly the sun eased into the horizon. I saw the boy jumping from a little ways off and slowly made my way up, timing it so I'd be close by when he jumped again. I didn't think too much of it until I got back and saw it on my computer. Love those kinds of surprises. 

Selects: Stevie, Alex, Matt

I spent the weekend shooting the Milledgeville Film Festival, and this shoot came together at lunch about midway through the weekend. Everyone retired to the Antebellum Inn for refreshments, and the mood had hit a sort of lull. People talked quietly in the quiet rooms and sipped something cool from small plastic cups. Outside, fragrant air swirled around warm spring blooms, and a driver rolled down their window to let the heavy air blow through the cab. 

In the house, someone said let's go ride bikes, and we all went outside to ride. I went to take pictures. At some point Stevie crossed underneath a tree and looked beautiful, sun-dappled in front of some red flowers in bloom, and I said wait wait, let me take your picture, and so she waited and I made a few frames. Then, just like that, Alex said can you take one of me too? and then Matt said yeah, me too. I'd never had someone ask me to take their photo, so I said yes yes, of course. Then they wanted to all get in the photo together, and I was going to have the bike in it too because the cyan popped against the greens and reds and browns and it even matched parts of Stevie's dress. So we made those photos, and it was fun to shoot with friends in the warm fragrant air, just to have fun, but we were hot so we went inside to shoot more because it was cooler in there. Matt pretended to play the piano, and I had Stevie and Alex sit on the couch and look at me in the mirror so I could shoot them too.

Matt went against the window, and I shot him there, and Stevie said what if I go outside against the window and I said yeah that will be good and Alex, should I go too and yeah you go too, so she went and we made pictures and had our fun in the middle of the the weekend of making connections and watching films in auditoriums with the lights off.  

Selects: Lockerly Arboretum

I signed on with Lockerly Arboretum in Milledgeville to produce a collection of shots for a new brochure they're putting out. Loved being out there, some beautiful light to be found. Paved and unpaved walking trails weave through the 50 acres of property and go right through the coniferous tree sanctuary and by some beautiful Japanese maples. Lockerly Hall, the big white house in the pictures above, is open for visitors and on par with some of the larger restoration projects – even with a smaller staff. Hike, bike, picnic, tour, explore, etc., it's all out there.