Somewhere in 2011, I became acutely aware of my commitment to telling stories with my photography. My stories are more often about place and time and less about people and events. I observe the action around me – the sights, the sounds, the smells. From this consciousness I form my interpretation. I let it sink in and marinate a little before brining the camera up to my eye and layering on all the compositional and technical stuff that merely provide the tools for my expression.
Sometimes, rarely, a single image will suffice. Often, mostly, a set of images combines to develop a deeper narrative. Frequently, usually, one image rises to become a keystone note.
Perhaps a better photographer could capture their impressions in just one image. Are there images in my picture stories that are but filler? But brevity is not my measure for good tale. A good story needs a beginning, middle, and an end. It needs tension but also rest and resolution.
I have finally finished processing my Fish Out Of Water series. This series represents my impressions when visiting the Salton Sea.
The Salton Sea is a complicated place. It is not entirely man-made and not entirely natural. As the Salton Sink, it would fill and evaporate about every 400 years (they believe). In 1905, the perfect combination of nature and man, a wet winter and broken agricultural canal, flooded the area and created today’s Salton Sea. In the 50’s this area was to be the next playground oasis in the desert. However the sea continued to evaporate, salt concentrations increased, and nitrogen-rich agricultural runoff caused huge summer algae blooms. These conditions led to a annual summer tilapia die off which pretty much put a kibash on the summer water fun.
When visiting the sea, you cannot escape the sight of dead fish at various states of decay. At the northern ends the fish are mummified and nearly whole. As you move south there is more decay. Ghostly Spirits is from an area in the middle where fish get covered with mud and slowly dissolve. Here, however, they appear to be crawling out of the earth.
Two more images I made last weekend at the Salton Sea. The sea is a product of mother nature formed between 1905 and 1907. It was a playground during its heyday in the 1940’s and 50’s and is an important wildlife preserve. It is now in decline due to a combination of water diversion, agriculture, and time. Do we save the sea or let it run its course?
It is difficult to visit this area without thinking about the fish. At the top northern most areas of the sea, the fish are mummified and whole. As you go south, where there is more water intake and moisture, the fish are decayed and skeletal. Finally at the very bottom is the marshy area of the Sonny Bono Wildlife Preserve. These two images are from the mid-area of on the east side where the beach is formed of beautiful pink barnacle shells.
I just got back from a 3-day exploration of the Salton Sea. You can’t help but think about the water story and its politics in California. From Mono Lake to the Salton Sea, our landscape is forever changed by the growth of our cities and agriculture. It is balancing act, but in the meantime, it makes for darned interesting photography.