When I was five, I narrowly avoided drowning. I’m almost dead. When you drown, you quickly experience this definitive moment known to all those who have come close to death : the vision is veiled, you give up and you pass out in darkness.
Years later, I tamed the water, to the point of dedicating an unreasonable amount of time to it and, often passing for an original, to like being there when everyone feared it : in the dark waters of the night. For long minutes, I floated calmly on my back, staring at the darkness, which I challenged, listening to my breaths; in this water that had almost killed me, I never died. Neither she nor the night could have me. I felt alive, more than at any other time of the day. I’ve been doing this for years.
In 2015, a series of singular chances led me on a merchant marine cargo ship. During this first winter trip, I experienced strange parentheses, intervals with no known marks. And above all, I found a way to cure my time-consuming addiction. On the ocean, it is at night that the intranquillity is total: when the weather is cloudy and the ship completely extinguished, the sea becomes invisible and even more abyssal. A total matte blackness, whether you close or open your eyes. We can only guess the waves by their sound. Sailors don’t like the night; you feel like you’re running out of air, more vulnerable.
But when an indeterminate glow makes the horizon visible again, life prevails over nothingness. With each of these appearances, I saw myself reopening my eyes as a rescued child, dazzled, surrounded by those who watched over me in the light. Thrilled by this feeling, and wanting to challenge the water in large format, I made four more trips, often uncomfortable, sometimes dangerous (one of my cargo ships almost turned over in the North Atlantic).
But again, nothing engulfed me. In this cathartic work, I found what I needed: I no longer float at night to challenge the darkness. I feel alive from waking to bedtime.
Vincent Jendly’s photographs and stories can be discovered on his website.