Empire of Salt

This series is a meditation of the products from the Salton Sea drainage basin in Southern California, through the lens of 17th Century Dutch Still Life painting.  The objects in this series were collected around the Salton Sea.  This lake was created in 1905 by the folly of men to harness the Colorado River to bring water to the inhospitable desert of Southern California.  However, faulty irrigation channels led the full brunt of the river to jump the bank and rush down old arroyos to the ancient bed of Lake Cahuilla.  After 2 years of unstoppable deluge, the result was the creation of the largest lake in California.

Originally the school of thought at the time was that the endoheric lake would dry up in around 20 years, but the Salton Sea remains today by being fed by the run off of 500,000 acres of 24/7 agricultural production in the Salton Sea Basin.  The quality of water is heavy polluted with nitrates, salt and heavy metals that have degraded the Salton Sea to a tipping point.  The lake was once the largest fishery in California. It is still is an integral part of the Pacific flyway for migrating birds but has become an ecological trap with massive die offs of both fish and fowl.  The issue is getting worse with water rights once for fields now being allocated to coastal California urban consumption, and the Salton Sea now inundated with toxic particles is turning towards an airborne toxic event that will consume the American Southwest.

The reasoning behind using a 400 year old school of painting to investigate this Western micro region is the Dutch Still Life’s use of displaying through visual imagery the materials and wealth of their global trading empire.  There is a connection between these two empires of trade in that both controlled water to create prosperity.  One used damns and dikes to create dry land from the North Sea, and one created an agricultural empire out of a desert by harnessing the Colorado River.  The products I collected and culled from the Salton Sea drainage basin represents the bounty of passing the buck from the last Century.  What future actions taken by us as a society in the proceeding decades in mitigating the ecological tab we’ve racked up, will be a telling indicator of future tribulations.


Joshua Haunschild

About Joshua Haunschild

Joshua Haunschild was born in Seattle, Washington, 1990. He received his BFA in Photography & Imaging from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts in 2012. He is a MFA candidate at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona.

Website: http://www.haunschildphotography.com/

284 thoughts on “Empire of Salt

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