I have been fascinated by the Mojave desert and the way this region has been used for a long time. (Although I live in Berlin, I have returned to photograph there several times.)

From the tracks of the early settlers to the construction of SpaceShipOne, a multitude of events have left their mark on this place. Some of them might be considered a relevant part of history, some just a small tale of personal triumph or failed dreams. But the underlying theme in all of them seems to be a very American one to me. In the vast and open landscape of the Mojave, these marks can possibly be seen more clearly than anywhere else.

I started out the project by following traces: traces left by the early miners, by the military and aircraft industry, and, more recently, by daring real estate developers. But I found that quite often the locations or scenes I came across seemed to step into a dialog with the images I already had in my mind.

I hope that by trying to balance a documentary approach with my very personal view, the series leaves room for interpretation and is able therefore also to comment on topics that go beyond the description of a specific geographic location.

In the series "Desert Paradise", I am dealing with the idea of constructed realities. I am looking at what happens if the utopian idea of a man-made paradise takes shape in golf resorts, gated communities, and Las Vegas theme hotels. I am interested in the surface of things, also when looking at people. In this context, even a natural environment may suddenly turn into a facade.

— Markus Altmann


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