The seemingly endless Sossusvlei dunes are known for their epic proportions, expansiveness, and extreme conditions. So how could this vast desert also be a uniquely serene and meditative environment?
A desert is intimidating. Like a large body of water, there’s something foreboding about a vast expanse of mother earth that makes no concessions to the needs of you and me. It’s also one of the most stunning landscapes on the planet, one I felt compelled to photograph.
Sossusvlei, the site of my Dunes: Landscapes Evolving series, is one of the oldest deserts in the world, dating back almost 15 million years. It’s nestled in the Namib Desert just thirty-seven miles from the Atlantic Ocean in Namibia. Deserts dot Africa’s landscape and parts of the Middle East, but I chose to travel to Sossusvlei because of the exceptional height and drama of its dunes.
Sossusvlei—which means “dead-end marsh” in Afrikaans—was created by winds off of the nearby Atlantic, which for millions of years have blown sand from Namibia’s beaches into the constantly evolving sand drifts that comprise my photos. Big Daddy—what many call the Mt. Everest of dunes—is one of the most show-stopping in the Namib Desert and rises to over 1,000 feet. Between the dunes, valleys of flat salt deposits—stark white in comparison to the tawny hills—sit dry and brittle, waiting for the rare flow of water from the nearby Tsauchab River.
Despite it’s extreme conditions, the desert is home to a handful of animals including small rodents and reptiles, and the occasional antelope which I was thrilled to capture in my photo Wild Solitude.
For those who’ve had the opportunity to travel to the desert, you know the incredible peace and tranquility that a landscape so grand and foreign can provide you. My goal when photographing Sossusvlei was to bring that same calming, introspective experience into the homes of my collectors.
Wherever you choose to hang your Dunes photograph—in your office, over your bed, or front-and-center in your living room—I hope it’s sensual shapes, shadows, and sheer scale will remind you of the beauty of the natural world and your place in it.