Consumerism and Abandonment: The impact of man on his environment

This photographic project was born out of an assignment completed during a Masters Degree course at the Espai d'Art Fotogràfic photography school in Valencia. During this course, it was proposed to us students to work around the theme of “Human activity: Machinery, Food and its surroundings” from which we would each develop our own artistic and professional project. In this way, my interest in the idea of “consumerism and abandonment. Man’s impact on his environment” and the following series of photographs, which was born. My work concludes with this publication and an exhibition in the ‘Patronato Martínez Guerricabeitia’ rooms at ‘La Nau’ Museum at the University of Valencia.


Aesthetic composition, colour and contents unite to guide the viewer to reflect on the excesses of consumerism. Endowing the images with a clearly aesthetic component was fundamental in order to create a contrast with the actual contents depicted. In this way I try to provoke an internal and external debate about some of the consequences of this uncontrolled consumerism, which has become such a normal part of our society. The snapshots, which make up this collection, were taken near Palm Springs, in particular near the Salton Sea in California, USA. 


The beginning of this journey through photographs begins with a sunset, which shows us an idyllic landscape. A dreamlike place, which transmits serenity and invites us to drift into our imaginations. A horizon of warm colours with calm waters, which in turn attract harmonious feelings. We can see a small post, which serves as a guiding light for a vessel. This post lets one imagine a small marina, where we probably would not fine anyone. A place such as this, beautiful and unspoiled, cannot exist. Actually it does, it is solitary and there is nobody in this place but us.


We have strolled around the area, amazed and interested by the unknown however, without forgetting the initial purpose of our journey: unveiling and denouncing the effects of man. On this journey we have discovered what we all can provoke if we are not able to contain (rationalise) our eagerness to consume. Because of this, the landscapes we encountered became the most relevant player in the transmission of this message.


The Salton Sea, product of a sharp rise of the Colorado River little more than a hundred years ago, is considered the most polluted lake in the United States. The rise in salinity, the sewage and the industrial waste from local towns, to name some, have created a place in decline.  A place where the added fertilizers from agriculture have dyed the dry shore different colours and created pockets of chemical matter.


A forgotten and abandoned place, apparently without any possible solution and with very deteriorated water. The Salton Sea has become a phantasmagorical site; where the fish lay dead and the damaged landscape contradict the ideal image of the “American Dream”. This unrealistic concept is desired by many of the immigrants who have arrived crossing the nearby border with Mexico, who feed their families by fishing the few species left in the lake even when it means ignoring the obvious health risk from the extreme pollution levels.


Today, due to the considerable decrease in water levels, we can observe the skeletons of what once was an important nucleus for tourism. Half-buried boats, plots for sale, derelict houses… ultimately, constructions that initially promised prosperity, trapped in a stagnant space. A spot, which has become stuck in time and where the people who remain seem to have aged with it.


The landscape, which lies before us and the foul smell, which oozes from it, take us in one dramatic push to a harsh reality, which seems far away from a pleasant future. The bucolic sunset we started with is still visible between the mountains. However, looking around us, the place has lost its warmth. The imaginary marina, now no more than a skeleton, protrudes from the water surrounded by a desolate environment. This is the reality of the Salton Sea, whose history is bound together by one simple concept: loneliness.