Desert Shores

Lost America

Salton Sea is a large salt lake located on the San Andreas Fault, in an arid depression of Southwestern California, 227 feet below sea level. It was accidentally created at the beginning of the last century when the Colorado River overflowed its banks. A very popular tourist attraction in the 1950s and 1960s, it was paradise for fishing aficionados, its shores dotted with hotels, marinas and yacht clubs. The area boomed, with significant economic and population growth.

As the 1970s approached, people began noticing that the lake’s water was dropping and its salinity was rising. The mirage of the lake gradually faded; it was replaced by no-man’s lands and ghost towns. Today, the surrounding area is deserted; the water saturated with fertilisers and pesticides and fish decimated by algae bloom. Beachside resorts have given way to trailer park housing the poor and the marginalized, including many Mexican immigrants.

The forlorn landscapes are loaded with social, political and environmental implications. They seem to mirror a lost America, an era in which everything seemed possible and accessible for all citizens. These strange lands give us another, unflattering image, of a nation more divided and unequal than ever. Similar areas of dire poverty are found all across the United States – almost another country within our own, a destitute one where people live for lack of a better alternative.

These days, it’s easy to ignore the Salton Sea. After years of delay, the state has finally planned a cleanup – partly because windy days began bringing the odd reminder. As the breeze carries the lake’s toxic fumes and stink of decaying fish, even rich town in the Coachella Valley are overwhelmed by the smell of death.

A body of work of a hundred medium format images