Text and photographs by Ole Brodersen.
Zero eight, zero eight, zero eight at twenty hundred I embarked ”Ejdern” and also embarked on one of the greatest journeys of my life. “Ejdern” was built in eighteen ninety-four as a sailing pilot boat. We were to circumnavigate the Atlantic Ocean. Four guys, one year.
When people ask me how it was, I answer salty, maybe because it was the only constant ingredient of the trip. But I think I answer it because there is no simple way to explain how it was. I changed though, somewhere, somehow. This series of photographs, and text, contain an explanation, or proof of why, where and how and such.
Photography is very personal for me, and I feel I learn about myself through the process of taking pictures. I shoot with film for many reasons, but partly because I like the time it takes until you have the picture in front of you. It is easier to see if you‘ve been able to capture the feeling you had when you took the shot, if you have some time in between to consider it.
When you‘re on such a trip, the need for a project of some kind is important. At least for me. It‘s not that I needed proof of being on the boat; I just needed something firm that I had created while being there. This is why the result of our dinghy-capsize in Cape Verde hit me that hard. My Leica was broken. I had to ship it to Germany to get it repaired. This meant that I was going to cross the Atlantic without this project of mine. Maybe I already felt I was changing, and understood that the camera was my way of understanding that process. It would be 5 months until I saw my beloved Leica again, on Cuba. I cried.
I survived though, mentally as well, across the Atlantic from Cape Verde to Brazil. Seventeen days. And luckily, in more than one way, I got my hands on an Olympus OM1n. I only used the Leica while on land after I got it back. I don‘t think I brought anything that didn‘t break in one way or another. So did the OM1 as well of course. I had to get a new one in NYC. And thus it became a repeating message to all our visiting crew: Do not bring anything you care about on board. Or at least consider whether the joy of spending more time with something of high sentimental value exceed the sadness of breaking it.
In the middle of our second crossing of the Atlantic Ocean, from Newport to the Azores, my best friend died. We had two more weeks to go, when we got the message from Norway. Ironically, he had drowned. There was no chance in hell to get to shore on time to get to the funeral. Our only means of communicating was when people called us, we could not call anyone. I was able to write down some words though, which another guy on the boat had to read to my mother. I couldn‘t manage.
After 25 days, one storm, and one death we reached the shores of the Azores.
I keep wondering if the loss would have been easier if I‘d been with him until the end. I hadn‘t seen him for 11 months when it happened. I had an e-mail from him in my inbox once I reached a computer ashore.
I guess we where hoping that nothing had changed at home. Somebody might have gotten married; somebody had a kid, yes. But this we hadn‘t expected. Something big had changed. Something big was missing. And we had changed. This event had definitely triggered a larger change. In all four of us. Would you be happy with the life you were living if you died tomorrow?
What else happens to you, when you sit under the stars for four hours every night? When the weather has full power over you. It controls where you are going. How fast you are going to get there. What you are wearing. Moving so slowly that you, sometimes, even move backwards with the current. You can adjust your sails of course, but in the end, the weather has the final word. It never made me believe in faith or anything though. That what you do doesn‘t matter. On the contrary actually, I feel empowered. Because I now know of a situation that is totally opposite of the life I am living on land.
I flew from Cuba to NYC. I needed vacation. It might sound weird, but yes, I did. First of all the boat isn‘t big, there are no doors, and what probably bothered me the most was the lack of freedom. Any decision, no matter size, had to be discussed by the four of us. Where we were going, how long we were staying there, who our guests should be and so forth. Even leaving the boat, if we were on anchor, would have to be done together with somebody. Thus, in New York, it became very clear to me what I liked and disliked about this trip. And I simply loved the freedom I had in NYC. I had a flat I could enter and leave as I pleased. I had a cell phone, which finally made my appointments easier to make and change. And it was only me, myself and I. There were almost no limitations.
The adaptation to a more civilized life in NYC went very smooth, of course because I had missed it, but also because it was temporary. I knew I was getting back on the boat. I didn‘t like the thought of it in the beginning, but at the end of my stay I was ready for, and even missed the life on the boat.
The trickier part was getting used to life back home. One year without conventional work, one year with having the opportunity to read eight hours a day, one year with not knowing what tomorrow will be like. The longer we‘d been sailing, the harder I believe it would‘ve been to get back.
As I mentioned, I feel I learn about myself through my photographs. I seriously believe that my subconsciousness can tell me and explain things to me through the photos. And to put an end to this story I have included a photo I took after I had returned home. I took this on a road trip in Norway. I like the simple symbolism of the future and past being the same, and personally consider this photo as some kind of a proof of me being comfortable with the journey being over.
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