The New Desert Dwellers

Once, I hear, the Western desert attracted crazy dreamers; prospectors, pioneers, fanatics waving crazy religious tracts, some of whom even claimed to have seen and spoken to Jesus Christ and God the Father.

Now the Southwestern desert attracts developers, and people who dream of a house of their own, even if they can’t afford the glamour and traffic of West L.A. Buyers search for a place of their own, but end up with a million others on identical tracts in the middle of the desert. It’s a recipe for a Didion-esque madness of another sort. I think.

That’s what I see when I look at the the photos of Steve Smith. Back in the l9th century, a handful of people saw the beauty and the freedom in this land. In the 21st century people see that it’s cheap, relatively speaking, and that’s all that matters to them. They probably don’t even see the desert.

As the photographer says:

This photo series provides a portrait of the process of development that is quickly overtaking the desert peripheries of Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Denver, and Los Angeles. Here in the suburban periphery, the landscape is scraped bare, re-sculpted, sealed, and then covered so as not to erode away. These systems of control prepare the land for habitation and also guard it against the natural forces of the desert environment. These photographs document the interactions and contrasts between this manmade environment and natural elements of the desert ecology that it resists and attempts to control.



Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

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