Diploma Project from 2016
THE PHOTO BOOK.
These people who, through the sadness of this place that is believed to be a dead town in the middle of the Californian desert, found their peace of mind, their sanctuary, their freedom, their home, their alternative way of living, their friends, their lovers, their playground, their empty canvas ready to be played on – they found their Desert Paradise.
Desert Paradise ist eine fotografische Arbeit über die Bewohner in der kalifornischen Wüste rund um den Salton Sea. Stelle dir eine verwahrloste Geisterstadt an einem Salzsee vor. Du spazierst an einem von Fischkadavern gesäumten Strand entlang, unter dir krachen die tausenden kleinen Fischknochen unter deinen Schuhen in sich zusammen und ein unangenehmer Schwefelgeruch zieht dir in die Nase. Salz verkrustete Ruinen trüben deinen Blick auf den See im Sonnenuntergang. Du fährst weiter nach Süden und triffst nach ein paar Kilometern auf Slab City, einen von Müll bedeckten Trailerpark auf einer aufgegebenen Militärbasis, der weder an Kanalisation noch an das Stromnetz angeschlossen ist. Klingt nach einem Horrortrip in eine andere Welt? Doch für die Bewohner bedeuten diese Orte alles andere als Tod und Verderben. Diese Umgebung dient ihnen als leere Leinwand für unerfüllte Träume. Sie ist Projektionsfläche für Aussteiger, Künstler und Abenteurer. Natürlich ist das Leben in der unerbittlichen Hitze nicht immer rosig, und jeder Ort verbirgt seine dunklen Seiten. Doch jeder Einzelne hat sich bewusst für das Leben in der Wüste entschieden und baut sich seine eigene kleine Welt auf. Eine unbarmherzige Welt mit Tiefen, aber auch mit vielen Höhen.
In meiner fotografischen Arbeit sind Menschen zu sehen, die genau diese Geschichten zu erzählen haben. Die in der Tristesse dieser tot geglaubten Orte in mitten der Wüste Kaliforniens ihre Freiheit, ihr zu Hause, ihre alternative Lebensform – ihr Desert Paradise gefunden haben.
Meine Arbeit besteht aus einem Buch mit Interviewteil am Ende, einer Ausstellung und einen Film.
Blätter dich hier durch das Buch:
LEARN MORE ABOUT SOME OF THE PEOPLE
It’s freedom that can‘t be experienced anywhere else. If you have an idea you
can just jump up in the morning and do it that day.
My name is Cavemen, I am 24 and I run the library with Cornelius. She is in town getting some groceries right now. The library works as a donation base system. I guess where people bring in the extra books they have and sometimes they trade out books or they give them to us as a donation, because they like what we are doing here. All we basically do is trying to keep it on the show, just keep them dry, get them out of here so that we can get more books in. And I just like to do it, because it’s a good community program. There are a lot of families that come in here. They get like educational material for their kids or what ever. We also have the free table, with random free stuff and the food bin over here that is free for anyone. I‘ve been in the slabs for about a year and a half all year around. I think this summer will be probably a lot easier than the first one. We‘ve adapted quiet a bit. Slab City is just freedom. No one is trying to tell you what you can and can‘t do. This place is made of salvages so no inspector gonna come and like show us down or anything. It’s freedom that can‘t be experienced anywhere else. If you have an idea you can just jump up in the morning and do it that day. You don‘t have to like get some paperwork done or anything, you can just do it.
There is no regulation or anything. Everyone here lives in a certain system and
if you can live within that system you are fine.
I am Nancy, I am 21 years old. I am born and raised in South Florida. I started traveling two years ago. Since December I live in my car traveling that way. I came to Slab City on Christmas Day in 2015. Life is going on. I kind of knew what the Slabs were about. It is the last free place. There is no regulation or anything. Everyone here lives in a certain system and if you can live within that system you are fine. It is a good place to wait for winter to be over. I want to head to Alaska, like the guy from “Into the Wild“. I hope my journey will end better than his. That is my goal. I always travel for a couple of month and then I go home to see my mum. I want to make sure that she is alright. I tried college for a year and a half. But nobody around me was motivated so I quit. I was traveling with my ex. Two of our puppies died yesterday and we hope that the others will survive. This one here didn‘t get sick so I am grateful for that.
So I‘ve been staying in the Slabs for like 6 or 7 years, I don‘t know.
I leave for the summer time though, which we call a snow bird.
I am Josh, just Josh. So I‘ve been staying in the Slabs for like 6 or 7 years, I don‘t know. I leave for the summer time though, which we call a snow bird. But I am usually always here. I used to travel all over the country. But then I found this place and it‘s kind a been like home. Its free, you don‘t have to fucking pay anything, you just set up your camp and keep your shit together. I am currently taking care of puppies right now. We have 7 of them, from primary 9. I would have been gone by now because it is starting to come in the summer time but like with puppies you can‘t really travel. I guess I like the Slabs because it‘s free and you don‘t have to pay anything, just stay here. The only ones who really fuck with you are the cops. The cops are really fucking suck around here. It doesn‘t matter. Its fucking cool, I mean we have the hot springs, the canal, the skate park the Range on Saturday nights with life music, dance party on Friday nights at Radio Mikes or whatever, there is just stuff happening all the time. Rebel! Right now I have some legal issues so I don‘t really wanna stay in , but maybe I will take my girlfriend to the East Coast or New York, go mining up somewhere but I don‘t know. Nothing is for sure when you travel and plans change so quickly. I am from a town called Riverside but I‘ve been traveling for like 15 years or something like that, I was like 16 and I am 31 now. So I don‘t really have a home.
It is a safe space for full self expression and creativity,
and at the same time dangerous and unexplored.
I am Mynx and I love to come out to East Jesus. It’s humbling, to say the least. It is a safe space for full self expression and creativity, and at the same time dangerous and unexplored. It is a wrinkle in time, a blip in the fabric of this unexplainable existence. In a world of commodification, where the value of life is in the dollar to its name, east Jesus remains unharnessed by western society. It is an experience both humbling and em-powering, the last free place on earth.
My name is Michael and I’ve been doing a lot of research about Slab City. It is great just being able to come out here and build and doing whatever you want. You know I am inspired by art so I come out here and do like all sorts of art. I came out here with a backpack and now I have this massive camp. I love it. And I own a dog. It‘s been fun, so peaceful. Waking up in the morning, going to bed at night and seeing all these stars and seeing the military how the helicopters fly over and hearing the bombs go off kind of remind you of what war is about. I just wanna create a camp out here that people can come and just enjoy and do art and have fun and be peaceful. We do have water and we do have electricity. We just get it in a different way. I met a really good friend named Austin and he has been really helpful. He helped me with the camp. I create my idea of what I want. It‘s about it. I love to travel, I love to prospect, I love to live for gems, I love to do art and I love my dog Maisie and she loves me. In the future I really wanna work on the Salvation Mountain. Being able to do that and being able to participate. That has been very cool, I love Salvation Mountain. That’s about it. And the weather everyone is bitching out about it but I think its perfect. I don‘t know. Being able to go to the Range on Saturdays and listening to live music and meeting a variety of different people, that‘s pretty cool.
I am NRG, 3 letters! I’ve been here in the Slabs since August last year. It’s a free place to be creative men, that’s about it. Yeah, it gives me an opportunity and I am gonna take it. I will stay here through the summer in a 130 degree weather if I survive this then… fuck. Who knows man. I am 30 years old next month. I really like to live out here. In a sense, it is like family to me. This place is giving me the chance to sit still and figure out how to go to South America to travel on the free trains and hitchhiking.
Didn’t ever think that I end up here in the desert because I believed
people are crazy who live out here. But here I am. I came here and gave it a try.
And the main thing I guess why I stay here is the people.
I am Pirate Mike in Bombay Beach, I came out here about 15 years ago. I was playing music professionally and burnt down on it. So I wanted to go somewhere were it is a little bit more quiet, leave the city at all. But I didn’t really wanna be alone just somewhere a lot more quiet. Didn’t ever think that I end up here in the desert because I believed people are crazy who live out here. But here I am. I came here and gave it a try. And the main thing I guess why I stay here is the people. A few years ago around 2008, one of the things I was playing music for years is that there were drugs and alcohol and all that and I went through this whole thing. So I couldn’t stop until it was almost to late. So I prayed and I said: Lord, you know what? This time, because I’ve been to rehab three times already, this time, if you help me, I will never drink again. I just wanna live my life and help people in any way I can and just live a rich life on out. So things changed about a week or to two while I was there for about a month. After I made that prayer more or less my liver started healing up and I got better. When I came back home my friends kind a helped me out a lot. I have no desire and I hope that there are people out there who are as lucky as I am. You are not getting any help unless you help yourself. And I did and life has just been great you know. No more drinking! I eat a lot of candy, cake and ice cream. The doctor also said I have to be careful with that but I am fine. I love it, I love life.
I came to the middle of the desert in an RV with six dogs, two cats a bird and two people.
We stayed at the Slabs for two month and we couldn’t handle it. So we drove to Bombay,
actually to come to the beach. And I found this little purple house. I like it.
My name is Teresa, they call me Shorty. I work at the market. I am 53 years old and I’ve been in Bombay 6 1/2 years now. I love it here. Its peaceful, its quiet. It is a small town, you gotta have craziness in a small town. I closed a business in San Diego, I owned a pet store and a Walmart opened across the street so about a year later I haven’t any customers. So I had to close and I lost pretty much everything. That is the way things go. I came to the middle of the desert in an RV with six dogs, two cats a bird and two people. We stayed at the Slabs for two month and we couldn’t handle it. So we drove to Bombay, actually to come to the beach. And I found this little purple house. I like it. You can stay in if you don’t wanna see anybody and you can go out if you wanna see people. That is about it. I am not going anywhere. I will stay here. I like it. I own my house. Some of the people are a little bit hard to take, but hey, you get along. I don’t really know if I want to have this as a thriving place again anyways.
My name is Buckshot, I am 48 and I live here in Bombay Beach. I live with my parents but I am thinking of buying a place down here maybe for a permanent residence. I like the place, its a magnet for people they come down here and they are hooked on it. You know, you‘ve been down there and you like the place. It is what it is, you know, its a small community, everybody knows everybody, its just a great little place to be. Its a lot of fun, just … It is what it is and that is it. I hope they are putting more water now in the Salton sea to bring a lot more down people down here and that it starts coming back to what it was a long time ago, what it used to be. I hope it does anyway. It’s kind a stupid that they start closing everything down. If they can bring the water level up, more people are gonna start coming down here and they stop putting all these restrictions on everybody anyway, it is what it is.
Basically everybody knows what needs to be done what they can do and
what they wanna do and that is it and its for the benefit of all.
During my wandering around I hiked the pacific coast trail about half. I got to different towns and thought: Wow that is cool, I can imagine living here! But after a while I got tired. I‘ve been living in Santa Rosa for a good numbers of years, homeless, just kind a camping out and then I started working out on a labor connecting place and did that for a couple of years putting up steel. Then I spent 2 years fighting cancer. I was 50 years old and I can‘t do any of these things that I used to do. Fuck you! Then I went up and started doing volunteer work at the solar living institute and I came up to Oregon and bought a trailer. And I looked up in the internet free places to camp in southern California and Slab city was first on the list. So I came to Slab city when I was 54 I guess, I met Marty, Frank and Jake, they were like the original hitchhiker camp and I kinda hooked up with them, and then I came down here for a couple of years. Then in 2011 Charlie passed away and in 2012 hitchhiker camp moved into East Jesus and started supervising the place. We did that for a couple of years with Frank in charge and then Jen and Caddy gave Frank a break. When Frank wanted to be back in charge again and he tried to power play and the boarder directors voted him down and he got pissed and left and now we are running more like a democracy. Basically everybody knows what needs to be done what they can do and what they wanna do and that is it and its for the benefit of all. So we don’t really need a leader, we need caretakers, so everybody has different departments.