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The Story Behind (the Landing of the Adventurers)

One of the most iconic images of my upcoming ‘Socotra’ book is the Landing of the Adventurers. I summons the whole objective of the project, the character of islands, the idea of travel, and the nature of exploration in one single photograph. I would like to share with you how I took that photograph.

It was during my second stay on Socotra that I met two German travellers. Actually, we first met at the airport in Sana’a already – and then again by chance on the beach of Di Hamri the next day. We got along well and they offered to go along with them for couple of days. One evening I invited them over to my hut and cooked pasta with shrimps for them and I generously shared the little wine I had brought along.

The next day, the next day, they planned to go to the beautiful lagoon of Sho’ab. It is quite remote and only reachable by foot or boat. They asked me along. The currents were strong that day and we were all glad to reach shore after an exhausting hour in the waves. Usually, tourists are brought to the far end of the beach, away from the hamlet of Qabahan. I planned to stay in the village for some days to photograph and to create a genealogy so our boatman directly headed for the settlement. Immediately, all the children gathered on the beach to welcome us. I was the first one to get out of the boat and looked back to take pictures of the others wading through the water. On the spur of a moment, one of the local boys saluted my travel companion. I snapped the photograph.

All the details come together to form the great photograph this image is: the tropical hat, the water bottle, and the video camera of the arriving adventurer. The loincloth and the brown skin of the boy. The boat of the landing in the background, with another traveller being helped out of the boat by more locals. The dramatic sky and the rolling wave. The one thing that is not fitting is that it is invisible that I was member of the landing group. (And that my fellow travellers are actually kind-hearted men.) Consequently, to include myself, the caption in the book will use the first person plural. It will read: “On our landing quite a crowd of wild-looking men and women, all clad only in loincloth, met us on the beach.”

Nonetheless, this photograph is the only incidence in my (young) career that I actively misrepresent a protagonist. I feel bad about it.

(The caption is a quote from the book “Wanderings Among South Sea Savages And in Borneo and the Philippines” by H. Wilfrid Walker from 1909.)