praia vermelha in rio de janeiro

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: The Break Up

Everyone who has been in a relationship knows the terror when you hear the phrase, “can we talk?”. You’re never sure what lies on the other side of those words. So when a boyfriend asked to meet me one Sunday night to talk, it felt ominous. Sitting across from him in a small cafe in Botafogo, the casual banter didn’t last long as it was evident something weighed on him.

He broke up with me, citing various reasons, much of which I didn’t absorb, too shellshocked to understand what was happening. I honed in on his excuse of focusing on his business, which seemed lame and legitimate at the same time. I guess when someone is breaking up with you, it’s never what you want to hear. This wasn’t the first time someone had broken up with me, but the pain was just as fierce.

Met with the shock of the news, I fought back tears. Not wanting to be like one of those dramatic women you see in the novelas that screams and throws things at her man, I tried to keep myself calm, but the tears came dripping down anyway. As I tried to wipe my face with those damn Brazilian napkins that are more like wax paper, I excused myself from the table to find solace in the real tissue in the bathroom. Sobbing into scraps of toilet paper, I quickly gained composure and returned to the table.

He looked defeated. I didn’t speak. And so it was the way we ended our talk. We walked together in silence to the metro, where we rode to the end of the line in Ipanema. He went one way, I went the other, neither of us looking each other in the eye.

Soothing my sorrows the day after, I decided to go to my safe space – the ocean. I left my hotel distraught, with no real plan in mind, other than to push pause on my vacation and absorb what had happened the night before.

The beach, nearly empty since it was a Monday, was the perfect respite. Waves lulled me to sleep as the hum of fishing boats buzzed in the distance. I eventually awoke to a couple taking wedding photos. Are you fucking kidding me? This was the last thing I wanted to see after having my heart ripped out the night before.

I laughed at God’s joke. As the bride and groom traded out props (a sign, a champagne bottle, flowers), I sipped on my Heineken and studied their interaction. He looked visibly uncomfortable; she looked determined. As much as I was familiar with all of the anecdotes from miserable married friends and statistics about single women being happier than married women, I had to wonder, “Would I ever find a man who would do something this ludicrous just to see me happy?”. As they came over and set down the champagne bottle, I gave them a nod with my beer and uttered a congratulatory “ParabΓ©ns”. She gave a giddy “obrigada”, and then I rolled over and turned my focus to the sea.

The young couple eventually wandered off, hand in hand, not knowing that I had snapped a few of my own photos of their shoot. I don’t know why I did. Lying on the sand looking at the waves, I noticed a doll head bobbing in the water. As it rolled up on to the sand, it stopped a few feet from me and we made eye contact. I burst out in tears. The flood gates had opened.

Staring at the doll head through swollen eyes, all I could think of was the scene from Clash of the Titans when Thetis’ head rolls to the ground and utters some sort of curse on the marrying couple. I stared back stunned. I felt just like this doll head – separated from my body, torn from my love, strewn from the wreckage.

Back at my hotel, shellshocked from the previous 24 hours’ events, I fell onto my bed and cried some more. With barely enough energy to eat, I uploaded the doll head photo to Instagram, giving it a blue filter. I captioned the photo “Blue Monday”. Just like the song, my mood, my broken heart.

Learn more about how to have a healthy relationship wherever your travels may take you:Β https://blog.sivanaspirit.com/lv-sc-golden-relationship-rules/

breaking up is hard to do

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: My Homeless Photo Assistant

rio de janeiro mural

What separates great photographers from the rest is composition; knowing what to crop out, and what to capture in those unforgettable images. And anyone who is in marketing, photography, or media knows that there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to a great image.

I recently cleaned out my photo database, while reminiscing on all of the memories and adventures of where I’d been and the story behind the photos. So I decided to write this series to tell the story of how I got a particular picture, and to provide my audience with an authentic angle of what had really happened. This is the first…

I had just come from the most famous bakery in Rio de Janeiro where I had interviewed their head chef about the history of this iconic landmark in the center of Rio. He generously gifted me with enough food to feed a small family, and I gladly gathered it all up in a to-go box as I left to my next stop.

As I walked down the winding streets of Rio’s downtown, trying to find a mural that an ex-boyfriend had shown me months before, I turned a corner into an alley. Coming towards me was a homeless man – barefoot and broken. My initial instinct was a bit of fear, but it would have been odd to turn and go back, so I assertively advanced towards him. As we got closer to each other, I asked him if he was hungry.

I wasn’t sure what he mumbled, but I immediately handed him the box of goodies from the bakery. Partially as a gift, and partially as a distraction from the rest of the stuff I was carrying(purse, camera, tripod). As a woman traveling alone, I’m often hyper-sensitive to being robbed or assaulted, given all of the grim statistics. I wasn’t sure what would happen next, but I was relieved that he was seemingly preoccupied with the food.

When I realized that this homeless man had no interest in my stuff after immediately sitting on the curb and tearing into his lunch, I set up my tripod and camera to take this picture. He asked what I was doing, and so I told him a bit about my job and my plans in Rio.

Trying to attempt a photo shoot in an alley alone is no easy feat, so I quickly realized that I would need his help to angle my camera on the tripod, and eventually tell me where to stand. “Esquerda!” he yelled, as I moved a little to the left…”Mais…isso”, signaling the perfect stance.

Eventually a couple wandered down the alley, with raised eyebrows, since my photo assistant with dirty and torn clothes, in contrast to my outfit of a silk skirt and stark white bodysuit wasn’t quite what one would expect. We were definitely the dynamic duo!

In that moment, we needed each other. I provided food. He provided artistic direction. As I gathered up my goods, I thanked him and wandered along the cobblestone path, turning the corner to my next destination. Walking along Rio’s downtown, I wondered how he got there. How long had he been homeless? What life crisis led him to end up on the streets?

And I guess that’s true with any homeless person. There is a story of how they got there. A series of unforgiving circumstances that led them down their own dark alley.

To read more about the plague of homelessness in my hometown of Los Angeles, California, click here.