Photo of The Week | 23.11.09 | The Taklamakan Desert

Posted by on Nov 23, 2009 in Editorial Photography | 3 Comments

China. The Taklamakan Desert. 2009

China. The Taklamakan Desert. 2009

The ‘Sea of Death’ is the not-so affectionate name that has been given by the Chinese people to the Taklamakan desert, a desert of such epic proportions and intimidating size, that its name in the local Uygur language translates as ‘You can go in, but you will never come out’.

I visited the Taklamakan desert as part of my work on the issue of desertification in China for the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting in April of this year and this is one of my favourote images, that I’d like to share with you as this week’s ‘Photo of the Week’.

Photographing in the Taklamakan

Photographing in the Taklamakan

The trees in the images are dead poplar trees, on the edges of the Taklamakan. As the desert moves, whole forests of trees are engulfed by the sand and huge swathes of land are reduced to no more than forest graveyards. It is an eerie and unnerving place, conjuring up the image of the aftermath of some epic disaster. Well, this is a disaster, an environmental disaster in China on the grandest scale. The significance of which is slowly dawning on people. This is where I have tried to come in by visually communicating the scale of this under-reported issue.

There are some interesting and exciting developments happening for this work at the moment that I’d love to share with you but I dare not talk about it, in case I jinx it. If and when these developments happen, the news will be out here on my blog first, so stay tuned. In the meantime, please spread the word about this issue.

3 Comments

  1. Jeremy Wade Shockley
    November 25, 2009

    Sean,

    This is an interesting subject and a very fine image.

    The dying forest reminds me of time I spent photographing the Dead Vlei in Namibia, but your case is very much an immediate one.

    There is something about seeing irreversible change first hand that leaves a lasting impression.

    Cheers, Jeremy

    Reply
    • sgallagher
      November 25, 2009

      Hi Jeremy,

      Thanks for the thoughts. People have told me that the deserts of Namibia are some of the most beautiful in the world. If you have a link to some pictures, feel free to post it here. Would love to see them.

      Best,
      Sean

      Reply
  2. Jeremy Wade Shockley
    November 26, 2009

    Thanks Sean,

    Here is a link to the Namibia portfolio with a few shots from the desert, it is my understanding that the trees there are very old, caught in a salt pan between high dunes. Climbing these dunes can be likened in my mind to climbing snowy peaks, each step takes massive effort, and each summit leads to another even higher one until at last one can look out over the vast expanse of sand and sky-very impressive!

    http://www.photoshelter.com/c/shockley/gallery/Namibia/G00004_gim9yUWDQ/

    Enjoy…

    Cheers, Jeremy

    Reply

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