salt series iii
german photographer tom hegen offers an uncanny overview of the earth’s surface with the third continuation of his salt series. together with his partner and helicopter pilot, lars gange, tom hegen captures the images high above utah’s great salt lake. the often orthographic perspective, together with meticulous framing, results in an ambiguous and graphic field.
the endless, artificially-made salt flats are sometimes isolated from any obvious semblance of human contact, suggesting an abstract painting. in other images, the photographer includes elements of context — a road, an electrical tower — which ground the viewer into familiarity. the flattened patterning recalls an illustration or a painting.
all images © tom hegen | @tomhegen.de
tom hegen’s otherworldly landscapes
describing the otherworldly environment captured within his salt series III, tom hegen (see more here) continues: ‘the extraction of sea salt is one of the oldest forms of human landscaping, and it is the oldest method of salt production. salt is a raw material that is now part of our everyday lives, but we rarely ask where it comes from and how it is produced. the salt series III explores these manufactured landscapes, their abstract and painterly quality. sea salt production sites are found all over the world, usually located around shallow shorelines.
‘the artificially-created ponds shown in the salt series III are one of the core elements in sea salt production: the sun and wind then evaporate most of the seawater from the ponds, leaving behind water with a high salt concentration known as brine. each salt pond has a unique salt density, and the colour of the water indicates the salinity of each pond.’
tom hegen continues, describing the salt series III: ‘this microscopic alga, also known as the dunaliella salina, is eaten by tiny shrimp. as the water becomes too salty, the shrimps disappear, causing the algae to increase and the colour of the ponds to intensify. as a result, the colours can vary from lighter shades of green to vibrant red. once the ponds have dried out, a crust of salt is left behind. workers then harvest the salt by delicately lifting the salt crust from the floor.
’the strong contrasts and geometric shapes of the salt ponds resemble abstract paintings. our need to arrange everything in geometric order, regulate, and have control makes us all — in a sense — to designers of our environment. I see myself as a curator, framing the artworks that the presence of humans has created.’