Desert Dweller


  • Photographer
    Daniel Skwarna
  • Prize
    3rd Place / Deeper Perspective/Deeper Perspective

Desert Dweller is a personal documentary project that explores the squatter community of Slab City – an off grid bunch of felons, artists, veterans, and impoverished Americans living on the remains of a WWII marine base in the Sonoran Desert, California. Slabbers are a motley crew. The year-round population is modest. Roughy fifty stay through July and August when temperatures are mercurial and even rattlesnakes seek the shade of campers. Their ability to endure inhuman conditions year after year is matched only by a shared distaste for the gridded boiler-plate of life.

Story

Desert Dweller explores the squatter community of Slab City – an off-grid group of felons, artists, veterans, and impoverished Americans living on the remains of a WWII marine base in the Sonoran Desert, California. Driven out of the city and chased by the authorities and their own personal demons, these down-and-out Americans make their homes in the harshest corners of the Sonoran Desert, on the edge of the dying Salton Sea. Slab City sits on the leftover infrastructure of Camp Dunlap, a WWII Marine base activated in 1942 as a training camp for action in North Africa. Slabbers are a motley crew. The year-round population is modest. Roughy fifty stay through July and August when temperatures are mercurial and even rattlesnakes seek the shade of campers. Their ability to endure inhuman conditions year after year is matched only by a shared distaste for the gridded boiler-plate of life. You might imagine them as modern American pioneers, with a variety of reasons for coming here and staying. Many are transient, coming for the warmth in winter. Some seek anonymity, others to forego the rat race.Veterans with PTSD neighbour hippies, artists, and musicians. Survivalists and religious men come to the desert to test themselves. Camps range from desert comfort to simple A-frames made of cardboard and solar panel pallets. There are Slabbers in WWII bunkers, recreational vehicles, hostels, the Christian Centre, water cisterns, school buses, and underground. There is no free drinkable water. Garbage is either kept by Slabbers or dumped. Solar panels and deep cycle batteries provide power for fans and swamp coolers in the hottest months. Sanitation varies from RVs to composting toilets and gopher holes: to each his own. There is a cost to living free. Here, at least, they have a certain leverage in a county plagued by high unemployment and few opportunities. Slab City is a container for the ill, impoverished, and outcast without anywhere else to go.

You can create multiple entries, and pay for them at the same time.
Just go to your History, and select multiple entries that you would like to pay for.