This part of California intrigues me. The first time I went to Salton sea was 7 years ago when I tagged along with Pixels and Motions shooting a music video for Slapshock, a rock band back from the Philippines. The Salton Sea was created when flooding occurred from the Colorado River in the early 1900s. It was then intended to become 1950s the “French Rivera of California” with all amenities and resorts for all visitors. But the salinity of the sea has been continuously increasing over time combined with the pollutants that the plan was never a success. Marine life was dying because of it and the tourism industry died with it as well. What remains is a deserted beach with abandoned structures and a stench on dead fish fill the surrounding area. But it has now become a tourist destination with its surreal post-apocalyptic charm where everything around you is dead and all the structures abandoned it was very intriguing and a perfect spot to shoot Anh and Garret’s engagement session with their kick-ass sense of style.
After Salton Sea, we rushed and did a quick shoot at Salvation Mountain, a heavily painted mountain made of clay with various Christian writings and ornamented with colorful painted objects of flowers, birds, trees, and a yellow brick road that serves as a pathway that goes up and around the mountain. The words “God is Love”, “Jesus loves you” and “Love is Universal”, and various positive biblical writings cover the whole area. The colorful humongous art piece was home and made by Leonard Knight (he passed away in 2014) who lived a very minimalistic lifestyle and is described by many as one of the happiest people they’ve met.
A few minutes of shoot at Salvation Mountain, we headed to Slab City for a very quick shoot because we barely have enough light to play around with. Slab City sits in the outskirts of a small town in Niland, California, the place describes itself as “the last free place on earth”. This place is so far off the beaten path. There were no roads. No traffic lights. Most probably no running water. Just trailer homes, yard sales, a lot of art, and a small community of people that cared for each other. Slab City attracts a lot of people that just wanted to live off the grid. It’s part hippy, part art commune, and part drop out society. They take care of each other here in spite of the fact that Slab City is one of the poorest of the poorest communities of California.
These places became a little symbolic to me as I’ve become more familiar with Anh and Garrret’s love for each other. Salton Sea, a failed luxury resort that stood out through the test of time with its unique desolate charms, Salvation Mountain that was created by pure passion and devotion and has become one of California’s icon and Slab City, a commune of carefree people bonded together by one purpose regardless of economic conditions. These places speak to me about perseverance, devotion, and happiness despite of… things that Anh and Garret has – happiness, purpose, and most importantly… LOVE. Key ingredients of what I believe to be a love that will stand through the test of time. I wanna be like these two when I grow up.