This past weekend, Brittany and I decided to head out to the Salton Sea and surrounding area for a photoshoot. We had plans to make several stops; Joshua Tree, Salton Sea, Bombay Beach, an oasis, and Salvation Mountain. We decided to head to our furthest destination first, a little town called Niland, Ca.. 4 miles outside of Niland lies a decommissioned military base now known as, Slab City or "The Slabs". A place I knew nothing about two weeks ago.
Slab City is a"snowbirds" campsite in the Colorado Desert in southeastern California used by several thousand campers, many of them retired. They use the site during the winter months. Its a bizarre stretch of area also filled with tweakers, eccentrics, army vets, hippies, Artists, and a few just plain fuckin weirdos that have moved to 'The Slabs' to learn how to live off the grid and to be left alone. The camp has no electricity, no running water, no sewers nor toilets, and no trash pickup service. Many campers use generators or solar panels to generate electricity. Supplies can be purchased in Niland. But they really love it if you have beer or cigarettes for them. As I learned trading a few cold ones for directions to a man named 'Two Horse Jack' located next door to East Jesus.
The entrance to Slab City is easily recognized by the colorful Salvation Mountain and where we began shooting. Salvation Mountain is a small hill approximately three stories high which is entirely covered in acrylic paint, concrete and adobe and festooned with Bible verses. It is a project of over two decades by Leonard Knight. While there we were invited to a painting party from a young girl, listened to another girl sing a beautiful song in one of the small caves and a polaroid was taken of us from two other girls we chatted with.
Following some shooting in the campsites of Slab City, we realized our day was quickly passing us by and that we most likely wouldn't be making it to any of our other spots we had in mind. We still had ideas of what we wanted to do at the slabs. Like take photos inside in an abandoned trailer. This is where "Two Horse Jack' would be of help.
East Jesus is an experimental, sustainable, habitable, art installation located in the Slab City area. There is no religious connotation in the name East Jesus – it's a colloquialism for the middle of nowhere beyond the edge of services. In early 2007, Charlie Russell left his job in the technology industry, packed all his belongings into a shipping container sent to a trash-strewn field, and began to surround his two art cars with the sculptures that would become the foundation works of East Jesus. Made from discarded material that has been reused, recycled, or repurposed, East Jesus encourages visitors to imagine a world without waste in which every action is an opportunity for self-expression. East Jesus is a living, growing, and ever-changing artwork that embraces the varied voices of the thousands of contributing artists who have added to the installation. The people here are so nice and inviting, Jack took me into his home and shared stories of different murals on his walls from guests from all over the world had painted for him as a thank you for letting them stay at his site. He let us to shoot in and around his home. The people who we met at East Jesus as well, gave us a small tour of the grounds and let us shoot anywhere we liked.
More pics of our shoot on my Instagram: reallysortofamazing
If you're looking for an off the beaten path day adventure, I highly suggest the road trip. I look forward to my next visit. Check out their site for more info: East Jesus