In the series “Joshua” I use a thermal camera to photograph Joshua trees in the southwestern deserts of the United States. Temperature is represented by gradients of black and white. The intent of this work is to promote dialogue and encourage awareness of their current environmental challenges brought about by reoccurring events such as drought and wildfires, attributed to a warming climate, as well as human encroachment.
To decompress from the stress and challenges of life during the COVID-19 pandemic, I began a daily routine of taking long hikes in the Mojave Desert. At first, my mind shifted into a mode of focused observation of the land. Yet it wasn’t long before I began searching for unexpected and unchartered territory within my own artistic process. At that point, the high-resolution thermal camera became my constant companion on my daily hikes. I was fascinated how these photographs appeared otherworldly, blurring the lines between documentation and abstraction.
The thermal photographs I captured of Joshua trees appeared both haunting and familiar. This dichotomy led me to extensive thermal observation of their family-like behaviors within their environments, from birth to decomposition. While photographing the Joshua trees, I pointed the camera upward toward the desert sky and was amazed to see the frigid temperatures of the atmosphere in stark contrast to the warmer varying temperatures of the clouds. In addition, I didn’t expect to see such extreme temperatures created from a decomposing tree. Nor did I expect to find contrasting temperatures revealed on different areas of a single tree.
My home in the Mojave Desert is located at the entrance of the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area in Nevada. It’s not an easy place to live, especially in the summer, with temperatures exceeding 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Yet these challenges have always held a special meaning to me – reminiscent of the obstacles I have faced in my own life and the resilience I had to develop to grow and survive. It is my hope that this work will offer a conscious path in recognizing the challenges affecting the future of the Joshua trees.