Photographing the Hidden Pastels of the Desert
The American Wild West like you’ve never seen it before
Sarah Ben Romdane
“I started shooting this landscape series in 2011”, says 39-year-old Italian photographer Luca Tombolini, “It was during a period when I was unsure about where to concentrate my energies: on commercial photography or on personal projects. I decided to push more on personal projects and I asked myself what would I really like to photograph. Unconsciously the answer came up as this kind of desert landscapes, which I soon travelled to”.
Last Spring, through the help of friends, Luca travelled to the American West for two months, a place he’d long dreamt of visiting. “I moved around in a 4×4, and concentrated on Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona. Like always, I wanted to explore and drift away along with the sensations of the places. What I found out was a striking clash between the spirituality of the land and the over imposed western culture”, he says.
For this series, Luca researched thoroughly, using Google Earth to map out the land’s characteristics – but let his instincts guide the way whilst on the ground. “If the sensations weren’t right, I just kept it moving.”
Luca recalls a special moment in New Mexico when he was photographing the landscape at sunset, standing on a mud hill in the badlands. “In the valley below, I saw an animal passing by. Sadly in Europe most of the wildlife has been eradicated from the land, so at first I thought it was a dog, but it didn’t look like a dog. It was a lynx. Before it disappeared behind the hill it wasn’t more than five seconds but my heart felt like it stopped for that time. For the rest of the trip I kept looking for animal tracks around. I became thrilled and humbled at the same time by knowing that somewhere around me there could have been a mountain lion, a lynx or a bear”.