This past June I took a photo workshop with Gerd Ludwig at the Salton Sea in California. Little did I know beforehand, that this would be the start of a long-term project. I found a place that grabbed my curiosity in a strong hold; I wanted to dive right in. The idea that I can go back, over and over again, and pay close attention to this place so that I am more than superficially acquainted with it is thrilling. How lucky!! It is an evolving process, a non-trivial idea, and utterly amazing that I can do this.
This project examines overlooked features of a desert that bares witness to the human touch. In 1905, the Colorado River Dam flooded a low-lying valley and created the Salton Sea. Up through the 1960s, real estate developers worked to make this the next Palm Springs and a magnet for movie stars.
They failed. Today the Sea – California’s largest lake – is polluted and near-dead. Fish carcasses rot along the shore, and have turned the Sea’s perimeters into oddly sanded beaches of their remains. The sea of hope quickly evaporated.
The Salton Sea is a part of an Americana whose culture is a world apart from the rest of the United States. Places like Bombay Beach and Salton City represent the decaying vision of the Sea’s hopeful future; Slab City is a hovel for squatters; Calipatria, and Niland are ordinary city-towns where the life-bloods are agriculture, solar farms, geo-thermal energy.
Silence, emptiness, banality, and “rawness” attract me to this environment. Everything seems to stare at you; the illusory unpeopled streets give me the sense of something invisible. Other photographers have been drawn to the fallen romanticism of the Salton Sea. My own photographs are less about this lost promise; the inescapable “hereness” of this desert landscape and its surroundings opens my eyes to the everyday and the richness of the prosaic.
Photo journalism without a single human being – or animal. Very telling. I hope to see more of this project.
thanks, bunty! i, too, cannot wait to see where this project takes me. literally and figuratively.
i’m not quite sure that my work is photo journalism. i think that it is not quite documentary… they are portraits of sorts… i tend shy away from sentimentality and, instead, try to offer a unique glimpse of everyday elements to draw in the viewer. there you have it. but who knows?!!?!!
I’m proud to see where the work is taking you and that you’re continuing with the project.
All best, Gerd
thank you, gerd. yes! i have to admit i am feeling very excited by this work. it feels right as i wander the landscape, meet and talk with people (when they are around!), and simply shoot.
Very nice pictures! You have captured the spirit of this place well!
Sent from my iPhone
thank you for your kind words.
I love the way “Desert Shores” evokes both growth & decay. Interesting how the palm trees are shown only as a reflection in the water.
thank you for your thoughtful comment
Wow. So interesting
It’s a strange, haunting, and beautiful place.