Art & Photography

American Desert Dreams

Photographers Nancy Baron and Pamela Littky explore the familiar and the strange in their studies of Palm Springs and Death Valley

When Nancy Baron and Pamela Littky first met at Paris Photo Los Angeles in 2014, a shared love for photography and similar artistic sensibility cemented their friendship. They had both produced books focused on the American desert, and when the opportunity to collaborate on an joint exhibition recently came up, the pair were excited about the idea. ‘In early January the Kehrer Galerie in Berlin approached us with the idea of showing together,’ says Baron. ‘Nancy and I both thought it would be an interesting juxtaposition,’ adds Littky. 

Their individual interests in the American desert came about in contrasting ways. While Baron had a fascination with the place she calls home – Palm Springs – Littky wanted to discover somewhere unfamiliar. ‘Years ago I was driving from Los Angeles to Las Vegas,’ says Littky. ‘On the drive, a giant water tanker piqued my interest. It said: “Welcome to Baker, CA: Gateway to Death Valley.” To me, it felt so ominous and macabre. I decided I wanted to get out and explore it.’ After several trips out to Baker, California, she started to research the ‘Gateway to Death Valley’. It was then that she discovered there was another town on the other side of Death Valley that shared the same name. ‘The towns bookended this part of the Mojave desert so I knew I had to see what was on the other side.’

Baron’s interest in desert life, on the other hand, came directly from her own experience. After 11 years as a part-time resident, Palm Springs still intrigues her. ‘Regardless of the different lifestyles found in Palm Springs and Death Valley, they are – each in their own way – brilliant examples of the American Dream and its different interpretations. The American desert has a freeing vibe and welcomes non-conformists living on or off the grid.’ 

American Desert Dreams is on show at the Kehrer Galerie in Berlin until May 6