Many of us have seen photographs of the abandoned mining town of Kolmanskop in Namibia. Even if you don’t remember the name of the place, it’s difficult to forget photographs of houses, being reclaimed by the surrounding desert, flooded with sand.
For most of us, that’s about as far as this story goes, but for Australian photographer Emma McEvoy, this was the beginning of a journey. Not content with simply seeing photos of this location, Emma made it her mission to visit one day, and to photograph it for herself.
Once a small but very rich mining village, abandoned in 1954, Kolmanskop has today become a popular destination for photographers, with visitors having to wade through houses knee deep in sand.
Emma had the opportunity to finally visit Kolmanskop last year while travelling in Africa. While the village is open to tourists for a few hours each day, out-of-hours permits can usually be arranged.
Emma’s experience of walking around barefoot in the sand while creating these photographs became the inspiration for how she would exhibit the work, titled ‘Sand Castles’.
Upon her return to Australia, Emma spent several months seeking a location she could use for her exhibition, dropping notes in mailboxes, putting ads on online classifieds websites, and contacting multiple real estate companies.
Eventually, a local real estate agency contacted Emma with the perfect location. What made things even more suited for this project is that the house was scheduled for demolition, adding to Emma’s concept for the original images of impermanence.
DIYP contacted Emma to find out a little more about setting up the exhibition, and what her friends and family thought of her intentions.
All of my friends and family loved the idea and encouraged me from the very beginning. They are pretty used to my big, crazy ideas, nothing shocks them any more.When I told one of my friends I wanted to fill a house with sand, her response was simply “of course you do!”
Filling a house with 9 tonnes of sand, however is no easy task and Emma shared with us how her plan unfolfed.
With 7 of us, it took about half a day to get the sand inside. I had a whole bunch of boys who are landscapers help me. They are used to moving sand and soil!
Two full truckloads of sand, and a whole lot of wheelbarrow trips later, the sand was inside the house.
I then spent another half a day just spreading it around and building it up the walls etc.
I used brooms and a leaf blower!
‘Sand Castles’ ran from 31st March until 3rd April, with the venue scheduled to be demolished the very next day.
Emma was present throughout the exhibition, allowing her to see their initial reactions to the work, as well as greeting them at the door and answering questions about the prints.
While not your standard exhibition space, it’s certainly one uniquely suited to complement the prints it contained.