Solar Flare

Words and photographs

by Carl van der Linde

"We were sitting on a regional train and just passed Santa Margherita Ligure. It was the summer of 2019 and we'd set out to explore the Mediterranean after a couple of weeks working and studying in bustling Milan. She was annoyed with me like on most of the train trips, staring out the window, gazing at the moving Italian landscape. I'd never before seen the Mediterranean, but have nonetheless chased blistering heat and crystal waters across the world. The train screeched to a halt at a small train station on the Italian Rivera. An older man was nodding off on the bench by the lavatory. Painted on the wall above him, written in cursive, I read "Stazione Zoagli".

 

We were greeted by spiraling stone stairs that descended into the coastal town, around the corner from Rapallo. We dashed into different ally ways trying to find a restaurant, bar, cafe or any place we could put our bags down and have a drink. The towering Roman arch bridge cast a cooling shadow - a momentary relief from the sweltering sun. The overloaded backpacks were crushing and contributed to the tension between us. I had recently cut my hair into a bob with a fringe, which was a tremendous mistake seeing that the sweat almost permanently licked it to my forehead. Finally sitting down we had a cigarette, a coffee and a few glasses of prosecco - followed by a few more glasses of prosecco and Aperol spritz.

 

She had a green and red scarf in her hair - she wore Italy well. Still not talking, she gazed out over the piazza while I was staring down the panting poodle at the neighboring table. We settled the tab and with a bubbly buzz, we hoisted our bags onto our backs - hers first as I had to be the crane to get it over her shoulders. It's a miracle that my camera wasn't damaged during the trip as it proved bulk and clunky and was mostly flailing around in the tote strapped to my backpack. We set off once again down the road in search of a spot for us to get into the water.

 

After a few more arguments, increasingly amplified by Italian inspired hand gestures, we saw Zoagli beach. It was strange that it wasn't a mirage. Sunseekers were flattened onto the rocks - their brown leather hides laid to dry on the pebbly Mediterranean landscape. We shed our bags and clothes. Like synchronized divers, we entered the ocean, finally feeling the healing Italian water. The salt crystallized on our hair and skin. Steam rose from the rocks where our wet feet touched. The hissing cicadas complimented the lapping of the water against the side of the pier. Out of the water, we melted onto sun-hot stone, face first. I opened one eye, meeting hers. A solar flare emitted. Drawn curtains couldn't keep the sunlight out any longer."

The series was shot on 120mm film accross the European Mediterranean during summer 2019 and was featured on the cover of Suitcase Magazine Vol. 31 The Freedom Issue, the cover of Paradiso Magazine Vol. 16 and BROAD Magazine.

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