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Work / Photography

Steph Wilson photographs the “boiled sweets and dehydrated piss”-like quality of salt lakes

Back in the summer of 2018, photographer Steph Wilson, who largely works on editorial commissions or self-initiated shoots, was feeling “incredibly frustrated” with her medium of creative work.

Considering the time of year, where all anyone wants to do is explore or laze about outside, Steph had a restless itch to get out of town, noting how “after the 100th editorial you realise the majority of your career is just back and forth of emails,” she tells us. The photographer felt she “needed to go somewhere and take some images totally void of any commercial element and shoot entirely freely and spontaneously”.

And so, she did. Heading out to Provence, France, a region she’d previously visited “and wanted to return to where I knew Van Gogh and Dora Maar lived and worked,” the photographer settled into “a sleepy little workers town” with a friend and spent some time basking in the area, a place with “real elegance to the nostalgia that the place evokes”.

Nearby to the town, the photographer came across “great expanses of pink salt lakes, often with wild flamingos,” Steph describes. Wandering into “a seemingly abandoned salt quarry,” the photographer and a friend discovered an unlikely relic floating in the water: an “old 1960s pornographic poster floating amongst the Barbie-pink salt water,” she explains. “That kind of naturally catalysed the series.”

The result is a series of photographs that embed a pastel coloured mist-like hue into Steph’s work. Whether the salt is suspended within the water, in crystallised clusters sitting atop the water or in mounds on the bank, each image Steph has crafted makes you lean in to discover if the images were taken in some faraway planet, or just across the channel in France.

Despite their otherworldliness, the photographer admits “the images are a little ‘prettier’ than where I’d like take my work this year,” but “in a landscape of crystallised pink minerals and dusky light, to abandon capturing that romanticism seemed a little insincere.” She goes on to describe how the photographs “resemble boiled sweets and dehydrated piss in their lurid colours,” which is quite possibly the best description of any photograph we’ve ever heard, also noting how although they are breathtakingly beautiful, “there’s a certainly an element of bodily fluids going on, or pollutants which gives the photos a bit of a sinister undertone.”

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