As a fan of all things related to space and surreal imagery, otherworldly landscape photography always fascinates me. I particularly love how photographers use colors and textures to create worlds that are both familiar and alien at one.
Case in point is a stunning project of Shenzen-based photographer and visual artist Jonas Daley, which he shot during a trip to the uninhabited and already otherworldly black hills of the Gobi Desert. If you’re looking for more locations to add to your post-pandemic travel bucket list, this series brings plenty of reasons to visit the iconic desert.
Discovering and navigating a “bewildering expanse”
“In the region where Haixi and Dunhuang meet, there is a bewildering expanse of black Gobi hills. The Qilian Mountains lie to its east and Lop Nur situates to its west,” Daley introduced the titular “Black Gobi,” which straddles the territories of Mongolia and China. He drove to the area in the autumn of 2020 but explored much of the black Gobi on foot, since the soft soil makes traveling by vehicle very tricky. Upon arriving, his eyes met with “a weird, little-known landform that took its shape more than 75 million years ago, making it an explorer haven.”
It’s easy to see why navigating desert on foot turned out to be a rewarding experience. I can imagining him taking in the sights in all their incredible details, maybe having a slight difficulty in choosing which spots shoot for a landscape photography project as everything simply looks incredibly surreal. “Along with the dusk always came the icy wind,” he said, and it makes me think about how shooting as the sun set made everything even more beautiful and dreamlike.
Reimagining the black Gobi in surreal colors
Daley refers to his visual style as mainly magical reality and surrealism. Using bright and spectacular colors, he is able to reimagine Earth’s terrain as alien landscapes, inviting viewers to get lost in the immensity and emotions of his made-up worlds. The black Gobi proved to be an ideal location for this, devoid of vegetation yet abundant in details.
Editing carefully selected scenes with a vibrant fantasy color palette is one of the tried and tested ways to reimagine familiar places. However, I think that it requires a lot of experimentation before one can get as comfortable and natural with it as Daley has.
Being at the right place and having the right vision definitely also helps create the best results for this style, especially for landscape photography. Hopefully, this series inspired you to see the world differently and invigorated the intrepid traveler in you!
All photos by Jonas Daley. Used with permission.