Sunday, April 15, 2012

bombay beach

For years now I've been obsessed with the idea of going to the Salton Sea - a large inland salt sea, or rather, water that hasn't gone away, yet, since the first decade of the C20th when the Colorado River overflowed.  It's an environmental disaster - full of fertilizer run off, so salty that just about the only fish in it are tilapia, drying up a little more every year.  It's the site of amazing photographs by Richard Misrach and others, and of course I went looking for the abandoned motels, the burnt out trailers on the sands - all the signs of the failed enterprise that was its attempt at resort existence in the 1960s ... what I did find (after I'd driven under the private jets flying in to Coachella) was a lot more agriculture (including date palm farms) than I'd expected, and that it was very hard to get a proper look at the SS when one's being careful of anonymous white semis being driven up from Mexico on a narrow road.  The western side is much easier that the eastern - but I was looking, first of all, for the wrecked community of Bombay Beach.
It struck me, though, that if I was wielding a camera, what would I be looking to do other than a form of rephotography.  But there was a small gang of feral looking children - no one else in sight at all - that rather made me apprehensive of finding somewhere to park and heading off in search of the unpicturesque shore. It's one of the poorest communities in Southern California, apparently - not a place to leave a Lexus with New Mexican plates unattended, I think - and as well as looking desolate, was full of burnt out meth-lab looking shacks.  So I limited myself to the rusting mail boxes, and shook my head at my inability to do poverty porn.   The real Bombay Beach - or Mumbai Beach, I suppose - is a whole lot more salubrious.

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