Showing posts with label Searching Salvation Project. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Searching Salvation Project. Show all posts

Jan 23, 2015

Salvation Mountain, Searching Salvation

Located just outside of Niland, California, less than an hour away from the Mexican border, Salvation Mountain is a work of art unlike any other. Built by Leonard Knight, the mountain was constructed out of straw, wood, adobe, and gallons and gallons of paint. There's no denying that it was a labour of love that Leonard dedicated years of his life to while living at the site. 

Leonard passed away in February 2014, however my friend Dave and I spoke to him in 2009 on our road trip across the Western USA. Being back here was a surreal moment on my return visit this past December. Dave died unexpectedly in 2011, so without him or Leonard to share with, I feel like I'm the only one left holding on to the memory. 

Nothing stays the same forever. Salvation Mountain has crumbled a bit since my last visit. I noticed that the paint has started to crack without the regular maintenance it was used to. Similarly, I felt my emotions crack a bit as well as I brought everything back to the surface. It wasn't what I prepared myself for, but it was serendipitous nonetheless to tour the site again. This was what my pilgrimage to the desert was all about.

Standing at the top of Salvation Mountain. 2009 meets 2014.

Carrying a photograph of Dave and myself that I snapped while standing on top of the mountain in 2009, my goal was to photo journal the location, shoot footage for my Searching Salvation video, and leave the image behind as a memorial. I accomplished all of these things by driving out to Salvation Mountain on two separate occasions during my time in the area.

I'm not a religious person, but in my eyes Salvation Mountain really isn't as fanatical as it may look on the surface. Hearing Leonard speak about it those years ago and from touring the site in detail, the take away for me is just to love - spread it, share it, create it.

Leonard's passion was infectious, and I began to view this location as a symbol of my friendship with Dave following his death because just being there was an uplifting experience. For me it was enlightening; a realization that some of the greatest things that can happen to you aren't because you planned them perfectly. Sometimes you're just in the right place at the right time and everything unfolds better than you could have scripted it.

When we left Salvation Mountain on that day back in 2009, Dave and I were in a state of euphoria that was fueled by Leonard's excitement in sharing this place with us. If you're familiar with the scene from Into the Wild (see below) it was like he recreated that moment for us (as I'm sure he did with countless others). It was a pure, natural high and I got to share it with one of my best friends. That's something that I never want to forget.

I left my photograph in here with the other notes and messages.

Jan 5, 2015

Roadside California: A New Series

In early December I returned to Southern California to retrace the steps from my previous road trips and begin shooting new footage for my long delayed, Searching Salvation video project. The new trip was once again focused on photo journaling, and it made me realize how much photography I'd already shot around California. It was from there that I decided to start putting together a new series for my site - Roadside California.

The series will be largely brand new content, but will also incorporate older posts to show certain locations and experiences from varying perspectives. A lot of what I've shot around the Salton Sea for instance will be comparisons, showing some of the abandoned locations 5 years ago (or further with archival shots) and what they look like now. 

The new Roadside California page is still very much a work in progress at this point, but you can explore some of the existing and upcoming content here. Expect a lot of interesting posts from around California over the next few months. It should be a great start to 2015!

Dec 1, 2014

A Pilgrimage to the Desert

By the time you read this I'll already be cruising through Southern California on my next photo journaling / video shooting adventure. And while it may sound like a nice vacation, the reasoning behind the trip is actually something far more substantial and has been a long time coming. 

In 2011, after the death of my close friend Dave, I began talking about Searching Salvation - a personal video project I wanted to create. Dave and I had taken road trips down to California in 2009 and 2010, both of which had become pretty memorable events in our friendship. The following year he passed unexpectedly and naturally my memories of him centered on these major road trips we took.

Our visit to Salvation Mountain near the Salton Sea in Southern California was an especially significant stop. It was one of those places we knew very little about beforehand, but the timing and mood during the visit made the experience seem almost euphoric. We spoke to Leonard Knight one on one, the creator of this artistic mountain in the desert, and his passion was equally contagious. If you've seen the movie Into the Wild you'll have an idea of what I'm talking about. Sadly, Leonard has also passed now.    

So why the return visit? For several years I've talked about wanting to retrace the steps I took with Dave on our final trip. Not only did I shoot video during our initial road trip, but I'd passed off one of my cameras to Dave so that he could shoot footage as well. I found myself inspired to create a short film about what our visit to Salvation Mountain meant, and how the memory of that place became crucial in my own grieving in the months that followed. Losing a close friend so young was devastating for all of us in our social circle, but my memories of the road trips we took are nothing but positive. In the years that have followed I've grown and had lots of time to think about how the loss changed me. I've also been recharged by the fact that Dave and I even created those memories in the first place.

My decision to go now was ultimately a spontaneous one made several weeks ago. After the experience I had in driving through Alberta's Rockies this summer, I felt compelled to do this road trip solo - flying down and then driving through the desert for a week. I'm thinking of the trip as a way to relive some personal memories, but it's also a bit of a pilgrimage to put the last few years of my life into perspective as well. So, it really is going to be an adventure - one that I've waited several long years to finally take.

Sep 10, 2014

Searching Salvation Update #3

On the anniversary of my friend Dave's passing three years ago today, my mind inevitably drifted towards the project that I was so motivated to put together following his death - Searching Salvation. I wanted to recap the visit we took to Salvation Mountain near the Salton Sea in Southern California in a video that put my thoughts into perspective. It was defining moment for both Dave and I, a true highlight on our cross country road trip, and a moment of euphoria that I felt captured our friendship in a truly poetic experience. 

Over the last few years I've shared brief updates, similar to this, explaining how the project was in the back of my mind. That really hasn't changed. My thoughts on what Searching Salvation should be certainly have though. The passing of time has made me less focused on rehashing those old memories, and more interested in creating something new to memorialize one of my best friends.

The timing isn't so important anymore now that I've stretched it out this long, but I see an opportunity to tell this story in a new short film that's framed by a return visit to Salvation Mountain. I'd love to retrace the steps we took, capture the surroundings more fully, and bring new context to the road trip that essentially was our last hurrah before he died. That's where the project is. That's the story I want to tell now. 

These are some of the original image edits I did for the project (from 2009 road trip).