The images featured in Chloe Sells’ new book Flamingo all started out as photographs taken at the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans in Botswana, one of the largest breeding grounds for flamingos in the Southern Hemisphere.
“There is a place on earth that looks like white paint has spilled from the heavens and splashed across its surface. There is no arboreal green. There is no azure water. There is no earthy, brown soil,” explains Sells of the allure of the Salt Pans, which are found in the heart of the Kalahari Desert.
“The word Makgadikgadi means, ‘the place of the dry, dry’,” she continues. “In spite of this, the area was not always desert. It was once an ancient lake, thought to be one of the largest on earth. Thousands of years ago the waters that fed this lake shifted and it became a series of smaller lakes, eventually evaporating altogether leaving salt flats stretching to the horizon.”
Evocative as this description is, the resulting works by Sells are no ordinary landscape photographs. Shot using an analogue large format camera, they are printed in a traditional darkroom where Sells then alters the images using light and texture. Some of the images are drawn on after they have been printed with paint and marker. Because of Sells’ method of working, each outcome is unique.
A selection of the works are on display at the NextLevel Gallery in Paris until December 23. In the book of the series, published by GOST Books, Sells has also introduced a cut out element, allowing readers to playfully adapt the centre of the works and introduce new colourways of their own choosing.
“At the best of times the beauty of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans is profound, at the worst of times the desert will fold you into its great white belly – never to return,” says Sells. “It is on these relict shorelines that the work for this book was created. I never did find the flamingos…”
Flamingo by Chloe Sells is published by GOST Books, priced £40; gostbooks.com. Chloe Sells’ exhibition The Form that Strength has Left is at NextLevel Gallery in Paris until December 23; nextlevelgalerie.com