While New Yorkers were stocking up on booze in preparation for Hurricane Joaquin (Phoenix’s) arrival last week, it’s hard to imagine that on the other side of the country, California is suffering from an absurdly long drought.
Owens Lake was drained almost a hundred years ago (between 1913 and 1924) in order to fill up the Los Angeles aqueduct. Because of this, the city’s population boomed as it became one of the most glamorous cities on earth. Owens Lake is now fully dry and the Los Angeles aqueduct is only a few years away from the same pitiful fate.
Photographer George Steinmetz recently captured the surprisingly stunning landscapes that remain in the arid California desert for a recent Vogue editorial. As you browse through his aerial photos, the underlying awareness of the deterioration of what was once moist American soil doesn’t completely deter you from still appreciating the raw, awing beauty.
Steinmetz flew over Owens Lake with Vogue writer, Abby Aguirre, taking in over 110 square miles of the deserted lake bed, spanning from Sierra Nevada on the west all the way to the Inyo Mountains on the east. The photographs are undoubtedly gorgeous, ranging from the outlandish crimson salt flats (salt and bacteria remnants from the lake), to the staggering copper tilled plains past the Alabama Hills (slightly reminiscent of a blood-stained razor blade).
This wildly bizarre western landscape is an ever evolving (or dissolving?) part of American history, marking another site that has become victim to human intervention.
These stark images appear almost unnatural, somewhat resembling crop circles or other “alien” theorized landscapes. In fact, Aguirre and Steinmetz claimed to pick up on some other-worldly vibes, saying in an interview “when I scan the radio dial, one of two available stations is broadcasting sounds that can be described only as extraterrestrial.”
Regardless of what may have shaped these landscapes, Steinmetz’s photographs have revealed a powerful truth and have been able to bring pubic awareness to America’s environmental concerns.