By the Big Sea Vessel in Setúbal

Unbelievable, after four weeks we finally made it. With perseverance and thanks to the immediate okay of Senhor Santa suddenly everything went very swiftly and unbureaucratic. We have got the permission to stay in the Terminal Roll-on Roll-off in the harbour of Setúbal for one day, from 8am to 12pm, to photograph there.

We are escorted, travelling in convoy to the terminal, at the gate a curtly salute, the barrier opens and we are on the other side, in the international area. Directly at the quay we see our dreamt image finally in real. The dimensions of the over 600 ton heavy vehicle transporters are overwhelming. A feeling of dizziness and great joy at the same time.

We had the plan to view the situation, determine the image section, place our piece of living furniture in there to then photograph unhurriedly with suitable light conditions.
But it is different. What stands before us are nearly 15 hours of highest tension.
The floor drops off sharply. A situation that we are not prepared for. We are lacking suitable material to compensate the gradient.
Mr. Carvalho, our assigned accompanying person, is taking his task exceedingly serious. We have to explain, argue and negotiate lots. He is in general very talkative and enjoys chatting.
We start to improvise in great haste. Soon Soraya will wake up and noisily request Mama and Selima will demand to take her to the promised walk on the beach.
Suddenly, a wooden wedge slips, the piece of living furniture stands crooked. Without a solution to the problem we start the ordered lunch break.

The menu of the day in the harbour canteen is Bacalhau assado. Delicious and exactly the right thing in this moment. The break feels good, but the tension stays, because all further attempts to solve the tricky situation fail. Until in the early afternoon we don't manage to bring the piece of furniture in the right position.

And then a jerk, the noise of bursting wood and a dull thud. Our piece of living furniture goes down. The crash rips two props out of their fixings, one break in two.
What now? Abort? Everything over?

There is Ravi, a friendly young Indian from Mumbai who works on the ship. As witness of the incident he stays with us, tries to help and tells us from his life. He shows us photos of his wife, the wedding and the flat in Mumbai. Ravi is glad, because after nearly nine months on the ship he will soon see his wife again.
The question how one deals in India with days when everything seems to go wrong, he answers without hesitation and very certainly with: „You have to go on. “

Finally Matteo opts with unbelievable determination against the resignation. Professionally the breaking points are glued and the marks of the impact are touched up with paintbrush and paint. Then at last we take the necessary time and find it. The remains of a washed up pallet serve as the basis to position the piece of furniture solidly.
Done! And that not too late, because only four days ago was the summer solstice. So even in the advanced hours there is still enough daylight. Matteo starts to photograph and I go for the promised walk on the beach with the children.

Two hours later the night lighting kicks in and the developing artificial light puts an end to the work behind the camera. We put the piece of living furniture back on the platform truck.
At 22.47 o'clock we drive to the gate, a brief salute, the barrier opens, we leave the terminal and wave Frisia and Ravi goodbye.


Nearly one month has passed since we took off to realise the photography by the big sea vessel. The imaginary picture arose from a romantic vision of the ships that tell of far away places and the fascination for their dimensions.

The gigantic container ships that arrive several times a week in Terminal XXI in Sines impressed us a lot. The current record is held by the ship Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller with a loading capacity of 18,270 ISO containers at 20 foot each, which equals a useful volume of approximately 604,462 m³. Less than five ship loads would be enough to reproduce the volume of the Twin Towers.

Big numbers. We start to dream. Which area would we need to fill the complete cargo of one of these container ships and how would it feel to stroll through that picture? Which contents would reveal themselves and which riddles would arise?

Setúbal, Portugal, 25th June 2014