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Musings: Bryan Derballa

As the summer season begins to fade away in the Northern Hemisphere, it seems only right to pay homage to that warm, seemingly endless time when we pause and relax. Although photographer Bryan Derballa spends much of his time working in the concrete jungle that is New York, he sometimes escapes to rural scenes to photograph his project Before We Land. Based around the fleeting phase when we transition into adulthood, Derballa’s project often uses summer to represent the (nearly) carefree life of a young adult.

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Allen stands in the water after night swimming at a lake in Pennsylvania in July of 2013.

For the past several years, Derballa has ventured out to hidden waterfalls and lakes to document this chapter of life. He says, “I turned 31 this summer and none of my high school friends do these kinds of things anymore. They wash their cars in the driveway and take their children to the park on Sundays. It probably won’t be too long until I’m doing the same thing. I’m totally fine with that. But until then, I’m going to hold on to every last drop of summer and wholesome fun from the August of my youth.”

For some, this phase of life is longer than others. But for many of us, images like this can strike a chord in our memories, even if they are long forgotten. This is one of photography’s amazing properties—its ability to revive lost memories or create new ones. Whether we experience these growing pains or not, Derballa’s photographs depict one of life’s many ongoing cycles.

He calls young adulthood a “period of uncertainty that occurs sometime after college but before homeownership, when friends become family and time becomes finite. It’s when responsibility and recklessness collide. Stakes get high. Amid the growth and regrets, there are moments of transcendence that challenge who we were and define who we’ll become. Those nights, bathed in water and moonlight, are the ones we wish would never end. But invariably they do.”

Fortunately, we still have the photographs to help us remember.

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Annelise, Sean, and Cameron sun on the rocks at an undisclosed swimming hole in upstate NY in June of 2013.
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Philip warms up after a night swim at an abandoned summer camp in June of 2013.
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Cameron dives through the waterfall at an undisclosed swimming hole in Pennsylvania in July of 2013.
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Allen and Annelise spread out a sheet under a full moon at an abandoned summer camp in June of 2013.
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Sean, Annelise, and Josh explore a waterfall at an undisclosed swimming hole in upstate NY in June of 2013.

View more work from Before We Land on Bryan Derballa’s website.

Follow Janna Dotschkal on Instagram and Twitter.


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