"When you stare at something long enough, your perception of it changes," says American photographer Laura Austin. You notice its perfect imperfections, the shadows it creates at different times of day, the subtleties no one simply passing by would notice." These are her observations from her time spent shooting a tiny community on the edge of the Salton Sea, Bombay Beach.
If you're unfamiliar with the Salton Sea, then this requires a little backstory. "The Salton Sea is a large body of water in the desert that was formed in 1900 by an error in canal construction that ended up flooding a huge chunk of land," explains Laura. "People initially saw an opportunity to turn it into a tourist destination, an oasis of sorts (think Palm Springs, but with a massive lake).
"All sorts of vacation homes popped up around the Salton Sea, but the water quickly became extremely salty and polluted... eating away at any boats on its surface, killing all the fish below, and making the water very unappealing to swim in. Without boring you with too many other details, the developments were abandoned and the area has turned into a bit of a post-apocalyptic wasteland."
Laura spent a week in the tiny community where people have decided to live, despite the incredibly hot summers and a giant, pungent body of water where swimming isn't recommended.
A gird of dirt roads with lines of trailers and rundown houses, the area has roughly 295 people calling it home, each with a fascinating story of how, out of all the places they could live, they ended up in such a surreal place. "Some are trying to escape civilisation, others are not able to afford anything else," adds Laura. "A select few simply enjoy the obscurity, and some have been born, raised, and carried out their whole lives there."
"Each morning I would wake up at sunrise and walk street-by-street scanning for hidden photographic treasures and would continue to do so until the sun fell below the horizon," Laura continues. "This turned into one of my favourite photo projects as of late. It challenged and trained my eye to see my surroundings differently. I discovered there is beauty in decay."