Namib desert, 2016

This surrealistic installation began 40 years ago when the German diamond miners and their families abandoned this small cluster of homes struggling to remain above the sands of the Namib Desert in Namibia. Once left to the unhindered advancing pulse of the enormous sand dunes rolling back from the sea, the rooms began filling up with sand and the very familiar objects of daily living took on a dramatic affect. Here in the unrelenting sunlight and the howling silence I found a place that proclaims Nature as the final winner.

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Baobab, tree of generations, 2016

Commonly, trees in photography are poetical objects, indicating the seasons or serving as dark backgrounds for clear or luminous buildings. Sometimes they are just perches for birds or hangers for swings, as they sit and frame the lawn with frost patterns, or work as first assistant for an epic film of sky and shadows.
 
The invasion of the Baobab tree into the world of Elaine Ling is exactly at the other end of the spectrum; the trees are the subject, commanding life around them in countless mysterious attachments. Elaine did not really decide to look at trees; it was the Baobab that ensnared her.
 
Having finished a large body of work in Mongolia, which began with the Gobi Desert, she decided to turn her attention to Mali across the Sahara. She then started a long jeep ride across the country, which suddenly became remarkable when she saw a huge tree, standing alone. As it was the only point of interest, she stopped. Approaching the tree, she discovered that around it, there was an unforeseen and strange herd of sheltered companions; this iconic giant of nature, one of the largest living things in the world, became for her an incredible image of life.
 
In the most arid and infertile part of the world, Baobabs are miracles, and their generosity to their neighbours stands as an invaluable and necessary link with the planet. Either as a giver of medicinal fruit, as food or as a provider of shadow, these raw materials necessary for daily life are the gifts that Baobabs give to this planet. Knowing that the baobab had a thousand-year lifespan, Elaine named them the “Tree of Generations”
 
With their high-reaching upper branches, they are organically linked to the sky, while their roots penetrate the earth in an incredibly distorted geometry, diving into the historical memory of life. The feeling of Eternity transmitted by these trees was so intense that it took Elaine on a journey of over 9,000 kilometres in the Limpopo region in South Africa to find the nine big trees. Continuing the quest, she photographed six strangely shaped species of these ancient trees which were uniquely indigenous to Madagascar.
 
Emotion without motion, light without color, branches without leaves, enormous trunks with incomprehensible geometry, ageless and overpowering to man; these dramatic creations of nature stand in monumental majesty.
 
Elaine is by definition “ a 4x5 Polaroid Girl ”; she has been using Polaroid Type 55 for eighteen years now. Unlike a geographical report, Elaine Ling’s work discusses the resilience of shapes and of life. She portrays the transience of nature through the solemnity of black-and-white images and asserts that the content of the picture carries a full vision of the world, exploding the image up to the Polaroid's subtly undefined edges. 
 
Studying these still images for an unlimited amount of time, one can feel the tumultuous incandescence of life, diving, like the Baobab, into the roots of the history of human existence, Mother Nature reminding us that we still belong to her, while stretching our arms up towards the sky.

Xavier Soule, Paris

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