Sea With Your Eyes


By Kiran Umapathy
On a daytrip to the Salton Sea, four restless photographers (Mike Brown, Natalie Kardos, Stacy Keck and I) swear we’ve driven back in time-not 150 miles northeast of San Diego.

Armed with 17 cameras, we have no schedule and no itinerary. But when you let spontaneity prevail, life has a way of rewarding you.

We crack open beers and chat with Leonard Knight, the man behind the quirky outdoor art installation, Salvation Mountain, and a disheveled vagrant named Moth. Easing back in sun-weathered car seats and discarded furniture, we’re ready to take in the annual Slab City Talent Show. Slab City, a former World War II Marine barracks, is now a camp for RV travelers, itinerants and other misfits.

As Natalie puts it, “you don’t just end up living in Slab City. Some serious sh!t has to go down first.”

We chat with residents of Bombay Beach (population around 360) at their only watering hole, then catch an otherworldly sunset-fish skeletons crunching beneath our shoes.

Whatever strange sights we stumble across, it’s easy to see how happy locals are, basking in the spastic-fantastic energy of this dying lakeside retreat. Sure, alcohol and intense UV rays may factor into the equation, but everyone seems to be genuinely enjoying life, largely unburdened by responsibility-beyond the unspoken duty to enjoy the moment.