Exulansis: n. the tendency to give up trying to talk about an experience because people are unable to relate to it - whether through envy or pity or simple foreignness - which allows it to drift away from the rest of your life story, until the memory itself feels out of place, almost mythical, wandering restlessly in the fog, no longer even looking for a place to land.
It’s 5am. I wake up to a silent room. Looking outside, there’s no one in sight and the dim glow of streetlights peppers the landscape, but in the distance I see the hues of blue emerge from the horizon; sunrise is coming.
The closer you are to the equator, the quicker the sun rises and falls - and judging by last night’s sunset I have a good hour to an hour and a half of interesting golden morning light, so I grabbed my gear and started walking around. Morro De Sao Paolo is a tourist island, with much of the economy (and thus people’s day to day) revolving around tourists. Still, I wanted to go deeper into the fray and check out where the locals lived outside the context of tourism. A few nights earlier, stumbling home from one of the craziest parties of my life, I wandered into the local part of town, making a mental note to return.
A tried and tested method of taking great photos is sitting and waiting. Something about a place captures your imagination, but the elements or the light isn’t perfect yet - but you know it will be. So you wait - for the right person, the right outfit, the right character or the right shadows. I saw the location above and sat around for 30 minutes, just waiting for the stream of light to be perfect. Here’s all the ones that didn’t make it.
It’s experiences like this that are hard to relate to people. What happens when slowly, but surely, many of the regular experiences in your life slowly cross over the threshold into the realm of the unrelated? There are so many fantastic experiences available to people, but many of them take time to be experienced comfortably. That chasm seems hard to cross, and indeed many people do not attempt it. Come to think about it, I think this will happen no matter how unique or parallel your experience.
Part of the reason why I photograph and why I write is to ensure that these memories live their own life, free from my cynicism and unhinged from the drifting progress of my identity and my mind. A wonderful alleyway, near the market, bathed in morning light as a woman in a red dress walks lightly towards the beach; the couple sneaking a kiss through the vines, suspended in each other and time as tourists walk by - two worlds apart. Moments like this are given new life when you share them with others, and live on.
Often people ask, “How was Germany?” or “Was Peru beautiful?” but the answer rarely connects with their curiosity. How do you tell someone about the majestic square in Munich, where two lions guard statues of ancient gods - or the old coliseum in Morro de Sao Paulo where we all danced, and rejoiced under the Brazilian stars like no other place in the world? I think photography can do it to some extent, but I think the real key is not to tell people about the events, but share with them how it made you feel.
It’s a challenge we all have, not just some of us who travel and explore. Your friend is coming back from work and telling you about challenges unique to her; a loved one is describing to you the anguishes of getting older, of losing out on the vibrance of youth; a lover tells you it’s hard to communicate their emotions to you freely - every story reaches out and tries to connect with you. All you have to do … is let it.