Nicholas Albrecht (b. 1982, Italy) lived for a while in a motorhome on the Salton Sea, a shallow salt lake in the deserts of Southern California, on the San Andreas Fault. With the ambition of documenting the experience of living on the Salton Sea, and meanwhile questioning the idea of being 'an insider', he presents photos from this period in his first monograph, One No One and One Hundred Thousand.
The series of 41 images is comprised of landscapes, posed portraits, reportage of scenes, studies of found objects and close-up details. It is, fundamentally, a scattershot. Albrecht shows us, for example, a young girl standing in a field of dry ash-coloured dirt. On the following page, there is a two-page spread image that at first appears to be entirely black but, if you have sufficient light, a slight outline can be read of a mountainous range. A further image is a pencil illustration of an ape portrait, and another shows a small pile of hair trimmings collected on a concrete floor. The images describe, but do not inform; just as the book doesn't offer illumination, but rather, an impression.
“Deserts are strange spaces in Western culture; we don't really know how to be in them," writes John Marlovitz in an essay included in the book. This awkwardness of environment translates into Albrecht's images as he points his camera towards the banal instead of the exceptional – the simplicity hints towards the personal and yet, confoundingly, they lack in intimacy. For example, Albrecht pairs two images on a single spread: an image of a male body-builder, standing in a grassy park in bikini underwear and flexing his muscles with a smile, and an image of a doll on a stand, her face contorted into something like a demented smile as her hands reach out awkwardly. Neither image, the grassy park nor the softly lit interior, offer us some direct understanding of “desert life", but rather, they offer us instead Albrecht's sense of disquiet. His overall portrait of Salton Sea shows us a place accessible, but unknowable.
One No One and One Hundred Thousand is available from Schilt Publishing.