“I really love it here. I think the freedom of this place is just so beautiful.
To me, I wouldn’t move for $10 million, unless I had to.
So I’m contented here in the desert, and I’m living where I want to live.
And I think good gets better.
And I think those great big tanks there were the sewer plant for the Marine base in World War II”
Some may recognize the words of Leonard Knight from the movie Into The Wild where Chris and Tracy take a walk to Salvation Mountain and meet him. In March I had the pleasure of taking my own walk to Salvation Mountain and meet the legend.
Leonard Knight is a joy and an inspiration, just as passionate and quirky in real life as on screen. I spoke with him for a while and his passion for his Salvation Mountain and for his God are very infectious. His work, life, passion and mission is a never ending process of creating Salvation Mountain as a tribute to his God. It’s really just a lot of paint on a mountain built of everything from clay to car doors and telephone poles but his dedication and passion lifts it to something special.
It was a slow hot day with few visitors, Leonard tells of days with hundreds of people. The desert sun was scorching, the clouds were spectacular and the wind a warm companion. The air tasted hot and dusty as I ate my lunch sandwich sitting on top of Salvation. Leonard then took me on a tour and gave me a handful of postcards telling me to “spread the love in Denmark, tell people about my work, about love and my mountain”. He is a weathered old desert dweller who has seen his fair share of the desert sun. Here’s my portrait of Leonard and part of his desert home.
Salvation mountain resides at Slab City, also of Into The Wild fame. Slab City is just a bunch of caravans out in the desert on concrete slabs, leftovers from a Marine base. There is not much to it but I can see what Leonard mean by stating”the freedom of this place is so beautiful”. I was there on a Thursday and wish I had stayed for the Friday outdoor concert as seen in the movie. With a little more guts for shooting people I would have liked to do portraits of the characters living here. Instead, some awesome clouds offered the chance of a wide Slab City panorama:
Into The Wild
I tend to get somewhat obsessive about my…obsessions one could say. I have over the past two years watched the beautiful movie Into The Wild twenty times, read the moving book ten times and listened to the great Eddie Vedder and Michael Brook soundtracks a million times over. Christopher McCandless’ quest, passion and great adventure somewhat mirrors mine and my feelings, and he completely changed my life post-mortem.
Chris, his story, the book, the movie, the soundtrack still means very much to me and there is great strength, comfort and inspiration for me in passionate people like Chris and Leonard. Attempting to slightly moderate my spectacularism (Douglas Coupland’s word for loving extreme situations) I am now attempting to create and live my nomad story, not a copy of the Alexander Supertramp story. Still, I had to visit Slab City and Salvation Mountain when I passed by the Salton Sea back in March. Some elements and arcs of a story came together for me and it was special for me, somewhat moving to be standing there. As if several versions of me caught up and merged into one.
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Tech: All images including the portrait shot using my Canon 17-40mm L lens, it does actually work as a portrait lens in a pinch and my copy is razor sharp (except for the corners of course). The panorama is stitched. All images have received my ‘harsh desert’ Photoshop process but they needed very little, the conditions here are already very harsh desert!