Whenever we think about photography, we are steered towards categorising shots into diametric boxes – portrait vs landscape, human vs nature, light vs dark. Of course, this can be useful when documenting your work, but it's also quite restricting.
As a photographer, I like to linger in places where categories converge and conflict, spending less time looking at the obvious and venturing further into what lays beyond. I like to tell stories about the everyday, just from a slightly different perspective.
The UNESCO-listed Humberstone and Santa Laura mines of Iquique in northern Chile are a monumental reminder of the industrial development of the country. The Atacama Desert once contained enormous quantities of salpeter, which was extracted in brutal conditions and used as a basis for fertilizer to support the agricultural development in the rest of Chile. The region later became the stage of various violent uprisings and the War of the Pacific, again proving the financial and strategic importance of the region.
Rather than the history, however, I chose to focus on the fantastic lightplay – an excellent example of how the natural environment reacts to human development.
El Yeso, Maipo Valley, Chile
El Yeso provides the majority of drinking water for the Santiago metropolitan area, but this reservoir is so much more than just a practical being. The turquoise hue of the water is spectacular, and the barren mountains surrounding the water create an otherworldly feeling. The dust adds another dimension to the mystery, and is kicked up by trucks traversing the unpaved roads on their way to local mines. In the area are many thermal baths, which make the journey out here even more rewarding.
Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
Waking up on the largest salt flat in the world is something that will stay with me forever. The Salar de Uyuni is probably the most-visited destination in Bolivia, and worth every second of being thrown around in the back of a 4x4 on bumpy roads while nourishing a throbbing headache from the altitude (the lake is situated at 3,656m!). Small communities of salt miners and tourist villages surround the flats, and you have to follow only one of the dark tracks on the saltbed to reach one of these remote outposts.
This Spanish province is most famous for its olive trees and olive-oil production and has beautiful winding roads through the countryside. On my way through, I came across this incredibly green pasture, devoid of grazing animals or growing crops.
Dakhla Peninsula, Western Sahara
Urban expansion takes place on an increasing scale on this peninsula. New areas are allocated for development and people are building houses in here all the time. Bright, often red, paint is used to decorate the buildings, creating a beautiful combination of pastels and brighter colours throughout the suburbs, which are particularly stunning when bathed in the early morning light.
Maras, Cusco, Peru
© Mark Rammers
A lady carries a bag (I lifted it when she was at the top, the weight is no joke) filled with salt that she collected from the salt pans in Maras, Peru. The salty water from a natural, subterranean spring is directed into the baths through an incredible network of small canals. As the sun starts to evaporate the water in the ponds, salt precipitates on the sides and bottom of the baths, where the workers carefully scrape it off and collect it. This tradition goes back to the Inca times, although there are voices too that say these baths aren't ancient at all and this story is merely used to drive up the value of the product. Either way, it's a stunning place to visit.
Lago Poopó, Oruro, Bolivia
A football goal sits on the outskirts of Lago Poopó in Western Bolivia. I went here because I heard about the lake drying up, resulting in an ecological disaster. The indigenous people surrounding the lake (or rather the saltbed that remains) told me that the government is responsible for the situation, as irrigation projects further upstream cut the flow of water to the lake.
Uva Province, Central Highlands, Sri Lanka
A boy washes himself and his clothes in a stream in the highlands of Sri Lanka. The island has dazzled me with its incredible biodiversity on a relatively small surface.
Dust is being carried from the Sahara towards the Atlantic Ocean turning the sky orange over Saint-Louis one late afternoon in June. This kept locals busy for the entire day removing the dust from every crevice of their houses, assuring me there is no way of keeping it out.
While driving to Granada after a day spent in the Sierra Nevada mountains, I saw a big dust cloud in the distance. As soon as I turned the next corner, I discovered that the source was this shepherd with his flock of sheep, casually using the entrance to the motorway as their trail. While it could be said that it's a bad thing that they have to cross busy roads to get to their destination, it's also mesmerising having your car surrounded by hundreds of bleating sheep.