Starting Points

In the lexicon of exploration, we christen the genesis as a starting point, and at the culmination, a journey's end. Yet, there exist odysseys that beckon us to linger indefinitely. Such was the enchantment I found while traversing the vast expanse of the Baltics and Scandinavia. I craved a perpetual journey, an unending tapestry of the landscapes unfolding before me. Another genesis marked a significant milestone – the initiation of my collaboration with Mr. Ajmal Samuel. He stood as the linchpin for this extraordinary road trip, orchestrating the adventure. In recognizing his pivotal role, I designate him as a patron, not merely of logistics but as a patron of the arts, breathing a deeper purposes into my photographic endeavors presented here. Allow me to explain.
Richard Mark Dobson
Penang. Malaysia 2024

The ASF Collection

What do these collections represent? In brief, they serve as Starting Points. Each series encapsulates the kernel of an idea, a potential exploration that may unfold in future based on the evolution of time and public interest. With over 40 years devoted to photography, my work is shaped by contemporary styles and genres. In each collection, I find myself on the brink, an observer on the periphery. To grasp the significance, context is crucial — a backstory unfolds. If curiosity beckons, I invite you to delve deeper and continue reading.
Remarkable journeys are undertaken by remarkable people. Photographers aspire to create remarkable photographs. The ASF photography collection herewith presented is the nexus of collaboration between Ajmal Samuel, a disabled yet highly successful entrepreneur, extreme athlete, adventurer, and photographer Richard Mark Dobson.

This collection represents images from our first expansive journey together, an extraordinary 2500km road trip from Vilnius, Lithuania, to Oslo, Norway, cycled in just 35 days — a remarkable feat made more so by the fact that Mr. Samuel, a paraplegic, used his arms, not his legs, to pedal the distance.

Mr. Samuel commissioned me to document his journey, one that included his wife and two friends. It was a quest to challenge his personal stamina and endurance, simultaneously raising funds for the Ajmal Samuel Foundation and the Hong Kong-based charity, Resolve Foundation, via the iResolve challenge. Disability awareness was the ultimate purpose, and accordingly, we all had to keep that in mind.

At this juncture, professional conundrums arose. Understanding the nature of Ajmal’s road trip, with his daily athlete distance and itinerary goals, it placed constraints on my methodology. There was no time for lingering; I had obligations to keep pace with the event, stay close and capture his road trip moments candidly, while at the same time, we both wanted compelling imagery, transcending mere snapshots.

Ultimately it was my aim was to create images which encapsulates the DNA and physics of contemporary street/urbanscape, landscape photography. Attempting to capture the intersection of human life and the surrounding environment, revealing nuanced narratives within everyday scenes. I wanted to convey my understanding of how color contributes to the creation of images, not only capturing the external world but also evoking an emotional connection and a sense of place.

Ultimately, by blending documentary and artistic style, it was my wish to explore the intersection of color, light, and culture, creating visually striking compositions that resonate with Mr Samuel and his wider audience.

What we have therefore within this collection, are series within series. Each one unequivocally a starting point, to be considered and possibly expanded upon. A return to the Baltics and Scandinavia to flush out themes touched upon in each of the series;

1. Temporal Landcapes
A series imbued with a sense of temporal permanence, these scenes invite contemplation on the souls of ancient taiga hunter-gatherers tribes. The photographs, akin to archival artifacts, encapsulate the entwined narratives of geological history, mesolithic times, anthropogenic influence, and the enduring allure of the wilds of Northern Europe.
2. Quiet Suburbia
Contemporary art photographers have frequently captured the eerie solitude that permeates suburban neighborhoods, portraying images of vacant streets and illuminated windows that evoke a profound sense of quiet unease.

Intriguingly, I have found myself drawn to such subjects as well. However, in the case of this particular series, where the lens turned towards tranquil Scandinavian suburbia, the scenes found me rather than the other way around. Following a route imposed upon me, I anticipated a sense of unease; yet, quite the opposite ensued.

Within the deserted landscapes of small Finnish, Swedish, and Norwegian villages or suburbs, an unexpected feeling of serenity and harmony prevailed. Every element seemed perfectly in its place, exuding an unmistakable aura of love and contentment. Even seemingly abandoned structures failed to convey a sense of neglect. Notably, the spectacle of doors and windows left ajar added to the ambiance. The scarcity of fences and walls felt both peculiar and heartening, creating an atmosphere infused with love, peace, and trust.

Coming from the contexts of South Africa and Vietnam, where security measures, like razor wire and burglar bars, are ubiquitous, I find myself compelled to ponder the societal statement embedded in these Scandinavian scenes. The immaculately tended gardens and well-maintained properties resonate as expressions of a community founded on trust rather than guarded by physical barriers. This stark contrast invites contemplation and prompts a consideration of societal values. I welcome an open debate on the implications of this observed dichotomy.
3. Auto Love

Introducing "Auto Love," a series delving into Scandinavia's profound fascination with classic cars. In these bucolic landscapes, American muscle cars juxtapose with robust and reliable Volvos and Saabs, embodying a cultural love for vintage automobiles. This automotive adoration is rooted in an appreciation for craftsmanship, a connection to automotive heritage, and a shared sense of nostalgia. Classic cars serve as more than mere artifacts; they symbolize a collective identity, fostering community engagement and reflecting a sustainable mindset. "Auto Love" as a future project would unravel the layers of this cultural phenomenon, exploring what the cherished vintage vehicles reveal about Scandinavian values and society at large.

For example, in a region known for its commitment to sustainability and environmental consciousness, the act of preserving and using classic cars aligns with a broader ethos. Classic cars, when well-maintained, can be viewed as sustainable alternatives to constant turnover in the automotive industry, promoting longevity and a reduced environmental impact.

Or how about, classic cars evoke a sense of nostalgia, harkening back to a bygone era that is often idealized. The allure of these vehicles lies not only in their mechanical prowess but in the memories and emotions they evoke. Owning and maintaining a classic car becomes a tangible link to the past, providing a nostalgic journey for both the owner and those who encounter these vintage treasures on the roads.

4. Timberland

Our Baltic and Scandic journey was experienced in the company of trees. Forests were our constant companions through Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Sweden, and Norway. They were, in many ways, our guide—not the forests themselves, but the roads and pathways through them. Forests have sustained travelers for eons, providing plants, shrubs, animals, and birds. They symbolize home, offering firewood for warmth, cooking, and building materials.

In this northern expanse, homes are crafted from wood, a testament to the Baltic and Scandinavian people's mastery of woodcraft. The allure of wood as a building material echoes in its natural warmth, versatility, and sustainability. Rooted in historical abundance and cultural appreciation, wooden homes signify a continuity of heritage and values deeply embedded in the relationship between people and surroundings. Welcome to Timberland, where every photograph is a story written in wood.

See curates Timberland Collection HERE
5. Trailer Parklife

Scandinavians craft a distinct lifestyle marked by the ownership of houses, log cabins, boats, and motorhomes, earning them the moniker of escape artists. This affinity for the outdoors materializes in the abundance of trailer parks and campsites across the region, where wild camping is not only tolerated but encouraged. In stark contrast to the derogatory stereotype of "trailer trash," these spaces defy negativity and flourish as vibrant communities during the summer, hibernating in the winter months.

Beyond mere dwellings, Scandinavian trailer parks metamorphose into a metaphor for an alternative narrative—a conscious choice diverging from societal norms, embodying a deep appreciation for simplicity, nature, and communal living. In this context, they represent a deliberate departure from materialism, endorsing a lifestyle that prioritizes experiences over possessions, echoing a collective embrace of freedom in outdoor living.
6. Greenhouse Effect

Greenhouses proliferate across the expansive landscapes of the Baltics and Scandinavia, embodying a philosophy deeply intertwined with the region's ethos. Beyond being mere structures, these silverhouses serve as living manifestations of a collective commitment to sustainable agriculture and an intricate dance with nature.

Hydroponics and organic food production have seamlessly integrated into everyday life, becoming a cornerstone of agricultural practices. Within these structures, the muted green interiors, shaped by the translucent architecture, create a visual symphony that transcends the practicality of food cultivation.

It is the interplay of form and function, the dichotomy of particle physics manifested in how these structures both absorb and reflect light, that unveils the underlying philosophy. In the heart of Scandinavia, the greenhouses stand not just as utilitarian spaces but as profound reflections of a society harmonizing with nature, embracing innovation, and championing a sustainable future. Each silverhouse becomes a testament to the delicate balance between technological advancement and ecological mindfulness, where the cultivation of organic produce is an art form that resonates with the land and its people.
7. Terraform

Farming, an age-old practice dating back 12,000 years to the agricultural revolution, has been an intrinsic force in shaping landscapes across the Baltics and Scandinavia. Here, the contours of the earth bear the imprints of both tectonic forces and the intentional intervention of humans. Rivers, forests, lakes, and fields have all been deftly manipulated to meet the needs of communities. Remarkably, the agricultural lands of this region don't simply appear manipulated but embody a grand design, a testament to collective wisdom, care, and patience. It's a landscape that seems to transcend mere manipulation, embodying a harmonious interplay between humanity and nature, evoking a profound sense of Terraforming—a deliberate and transformative act by farmers who, over millennia, have shaped the land with purposeful intervention.

The word "Terraform," with its roots in "terra" (Earth) and "form" (shaping), encapsulates the essence of human agency, echoing the historical transition from hunter-gatherer societies to settled agricultural communities. It embodies the narrative of farmers as earth-shapers, cultivating and molding the land into a habitat that harmonizes with their practices—a true testament to the enduring relationship between humanity and the Earth.
8. Ice Age Spirits

Amidst the spectacle of the Northern Lights, traversing vast landscapes adorned with gargantuan lakes and dense forests of silver birch, conifer, and pine, contemplation veers towards Paleolithic times and a perceived kinship with my warrior Norse ancestors. With a belief in my roots embedded in this ancient land, I inhale the winter air, absorbing the presence of ancient lichens, mosses, and bracken along with the boulder-strewn hills, envisioning fur-clad hunter-gatherers in pursuit of woolly mammoths. Observing the scattered giant boulders, remnants of the water flow that shaped the terrain at the end of the last ice age, I recognize this series as an ode to an era when the earth was both raw and beautiful—a resonance still palpable in this part of the world. The mind races back through time, and amidst these landscapes, a primal scream escapes my lips.
9. Norwegian Woods
While wandering into Norwegian woods, something happens—a sort of addiction to the emotions they evoke as I peer into them. What my eyes see, what my heart feels, and what my lens captures align. Immersed in silence, there's a powerful pull, urging me to go deeper, further, into the dark ages. To get lost in time.
The Warrior Chief - Mr Ajmal Samuel
Mr. Ajmal Samuel, Pakistan-born, carved out a successful life and career in Hong Kong through a warrior spirit of sheer determination and audacity. Anyone interested in learning more about this man is encouraged to follow these two links:
All the images presented here would not exist without him. Mr. Ajmal Samuel is a disabled warrior, overcoming the notions of disability, conquering paraplegic-associated pain, and achieving significant athletic and business goals. This Baltic & Scandic journey was his dream, his quest.

The warrior chief provided us with all the logistical means to visit this enchanting part of the world, covering the expenses, and we merely tagged along. We both agreed that, besides playing journey documentarian, my role was to create a body of work forming the basis for photographic exhibitions and books. It is our wish to offer limited edition prints from the curated series seen here, with sales contributing to raising funds for his charity, The Ajmal Samuel Foundation. More details on this will follow.

For now, I invite you to take the time to explore the next curated series following, one I call, "On the Road with Mr Ajmal Samuel."
19. On the Road with Mr Ajmal Samuel
What is it like to traverse halfway around the world from your home in Hong Kong, carrying 100kg of gear, including a handcycle? To embark on a journey with your wife and two friends, accompanied by a photographer and cameraman diligently capturing every aspect and nuance of your road trip life. How does it feel to lie prostrate and cycle for 39 days across 2500km of Baltic and Scandinavian landscapes, facing sunshine, rain, heat, and cold?

As the costs of the trip accumulate, and your body begins to protest with a chorus of aches and pains, what thoughts occupy your mind day after day? Longing for your own bed intensifies after 49 consecutive nights in different hotel rooms, and the allure of roadside coffee and meals begins to wane.

How does one express gratitude to the gods for endowing them with the good fortune of such a beautiful, loving, and dedicated wife? How does one meticulously plan the logistics for such an epic journey, successfully navigating from start to finish? How do you keep yourself and your companions motivated, all while ensuring that your social media followers are kept abreast of your epic journey?

And, above all, how do you meet obligations to charitable causes, personal foundations, and, most importantly, keep inspiring others with disabilities to dream big and simply go for it? The person best equipped to answer these questions is none other than Mr. AJ Samuel!

Curated Art

Limited Edition Giclée Prints. Signed by the artist.
Mr. Samuel and I share a common aspiration to extend the impact of our mission for the greater good through avenues such as education, talks, books, photographic exhibitions, and the sale of carefully curated limited edition fine art prints.
These prints, in our view, imbue permanence to our endeavors, offering something inherently beautiful to the broader public—a testament to an enduring spirit dedicated to life, travel, and the pursuit of fulfillment and happiness.

We welcome you to explore our SIGNATURE collections meticulously curated and showcased within the ASF Collection portal. Comprising single photographs or series, each selection is purposefully chosen to embody my understanding of the fundamental DNA across various photographic genres—capturing the 'decisive moment' in urbanscape, landscape, street, still life, abstract, and portraiture.

I aim for the work to convey a subtle beauty, often tinged with a tense incongruity, all while achieving the ultimate goal of creating compelling art photography.

NB:  We limit our SIGNATURE EDITIONS  to very low numbers. 

For your reference;

  • 3 (three) prints per series + 1 artist proof. 
  •  5 (five) prints per series + 1 artist proof.

Our ratiionale for such a low edition number;

scarcity has value
The prints you are buying are unusual and uncommon. Low numbers mean the editions sell out.  We want you to have something that can no longer be bought.

We would like to add that your patronage is appreciated.  From the revenue we make from the sales of this work, we develop new projects that could very well be of interest to you, the collector.
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