“You cannot assign a summer jam. It must reveal itself. The world must give it to you.”
As an artist of any stripe, it's necessary to absorb before you emit. Whether your mode of capture is the pen or the lens, creation requires the research of living.
Tennessee-born writer Shane Kennedy has spent the last two summers aboard the Hippo, a 36-foot junk-rig schooner built in Connecticut in 1980 that has since traveled the world–most recently braving the Black Sea and the Romanian coast.
“Being on a boat gives you unique access to many places that normal travelers will not usually see, and a way to connect with locals that seems impossible when backpacking. You get to skip the big city hustle and see the backside of a place. Every country with a coast has some form of boat culture, and boat people have an automatic kinship with their kind. You meet a lot of extremely gracious people. When people think of sailing, they think of the Mediterranean or the Bahamas and things like that, but the places people don’t think of as boat places are much more exciting to me. Like Iran for instance, which has lots of coast.”
Ship captain Clemens Poole has created of the Hippo a sort of floating artist commune, a mobile studio that also demands of its residents a certain physical toll.
“Aside from taking photos and video,” Shane says, “I have also served as the ship’s engineer for the last two years keeping the diesel engine in shape and repairing the boat’s wiring and electrical system.”
The ship provides a unique way of working, of seeing and filtering the world–particularly for a writer whose stories are largely “informed by the people and events that surround me.”
“While sailing, everyone took turns piloting, cooking, cleaning, and sunning. There was a little time for reading and leisure, but being on a small sailboat is physically and mentally demanding. We would find a place to dock near dusk and explore whatever town or village we were in, sometimes staying for a day or two.”
The combination of routine and ever-shifting setting create the perfect balance for a creator, mingling adventure with a rigidity that allows for digestion.
“Each day has the same structure, but all are completely different and exciting.”
If you need a soundtrack while looking at Shane's photos, you should let the Hippo guide you: “Each year a 'summer jam' usually presents itself. The summer jams are impossible to pick…you cannot assign a summer jam. It must reveal itself. The world must give it to you. This year, much to our amazement and eventual chagrin, Serbia gave us the parting gift of 'I Was Made for Loving You' by Kiss. Put it on repeat, point a fan at your face, spritz a little salt water in your hair, and you will be at least 75% of the way there.”
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