Inspired by the travel and documentary photography of the early explorers and by stories like Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s “The Little Prince”, the photographer wanted to create a series of images featuring the arid desert landscape and how the adventures of cartographers and explorers could have felt like at the early days of automobiles. All at a time when travel wasn’t as easy and convenient as it is today.
Fossil Dunes, an area in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, part of the Rub Al Khali, the biggest contiguous sand desert in the world, was the perfect setting for her vision. Almost uninhabitable desert, harsh natural light, shapes of dunes formed over decades and warm desert winds, all perfectly lend themselves as the stage for the protagonist as well as the historic Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40.
The story developed while being on the location – the inspiration however started a lot earlier. The adventurer that struggles to conquer the difficult terrain and withstands the powers of nature – struggling through sandstorms and climbing up dunes. Sand and its unique color in this particular area of the desert became a substantial part of how she planned this photographs. The visuals must take the viewer back in time to how the explorers and cartographers of the mid-1900s would have looked and how the desert would have felt to them.
The project finally took his shape thanks to the collaboration with Luca Lombardi, an offroad and adventure personality in UAE’s community, known by the alias of “Luca Goes Offroad”, but also a very successful interiors, luxury and food photographer and, recently, also active as a model.
The rich sepia feel, homage to the analog film look, goes hand in hand with the dynamic range and detail of modern digital photography, giving a movie-poster like feel to the images. The explorer is at the center of attention, even in the wider shots, that become breathtaking environmental portraits.
The choice of props (glasses, map, old medium format camera), as well as the wardrobe, was as essential for the storytelling as the poses and actions of the model. The images come to live by staging scenes that could have happened in an area of the desert that was, until then, an only little cartographically recorded area of the world. ■
About the Photographer:
Diana Kartasheva, commercial photographer with over 10 years of experience. Originally from Tashkent Uzbekistan, now building her own successful wedding photography and videography company in Dubai.
Words by: Luca Lombardi
Photos by: Diana Kartasheva