Between the Desert Christs and Joshua Tree
Driving east on the 29 Palms Highway from Desert Christ Park 1 to the northwest entrance to Joshua Tree National Forest,2 I passed two roadside installations, what I thought were shrines, that I turned around for.
The first was quite elaborate and dedicated, as far as I could tell, simply to Christ and children. There were no names or images, no additional icons. It was quite striking, isolated, well-maintained, unattended. Definitely a shrine.
The second was less explicit in its religiosity. There was a smallish cross wrapped in satin ribbon tacked onto a wreath of undetermined material, but that was the only adornment to be found on this structure. It was, a far as I could tell, not a shrine, but rather a small shelter, about 4 feet high and 8 feet across. No more than 3 feet deep, it could easily have sat two adults, or laid one out for rest, protected from direct rain or wind or sun.
These photographs were taken on a two-day road trip almost exactly four years ago. These photos stand in for memories I can’t otherwise conjure and have, in effect, become what I describe above, a shrine and a shelter. But who knows what their function was? I live in Brooklyn, New York City, where almost nothing like either of these micro-environments is to be seen at all. I wonder now, too, if they’re still there, or how, exactly, given that I didn’t really know where I was, but only where I had just been and where I was going, I could find them again for a second look?
Which question, of course, can’t be answered with certainty. But the photos do their work, and offer some sense of what I saw, what was where I’ve been.
There’s a wonderful scene in Wim Wenders’s Tokyo-Ga where he visits a model food manufacturing facility. He’s discussing the difference between things and the images of things.1 This is my small contribution to that mode, seen on the street in Manhattan.
A pretty hot topic at the time and something we should no doubt be paying closer attention to right now.↩
Lake Elsinore, CA, March 15, 2019
I took this photo nearly four years ago, near Lake Elsinore, Calfornia. While visiting Los Angeles, a friend told me I had to get out to see the superbloom, that I’d never seen anything like it, and he was right. All of the conditions that collude in the poppy bloom were present that year, and if I was too late to catch all of the colors,1 there were still miles and miles of these yellow/orange ones covering entire hill faces and valleys. It was breathtaking.
My friend had photos of purple ones, too, and pink, as I recall. When I first saw the photos he sent me, I thought he was messing around with some kind of infrared filter, which, of course, he was not.↩
Cadillac, Brooklyn, NY
I don’t know what happened to this car. I used to see it on the street occasionally but haven’t for a few years now. The day I made this photograph was hot and damp, humid following a late-summer shower or storm. It was a perfect day for a shot like this, the hazy warm light, the blue tint of the auto glass and paint.