The big picture: beautiful amid the flipside of the American daydream

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French photographer Laura Henno captivates life and daylight in an apocalyptic squatting in the California desert

In the heart of the California desert, the photographer and film-maker Laura Henno immersed herself in Slab City, a enormous, apocalyptic, open-air hunker, symbolic of the flipside of the” American nightmare “.

Here, members of an almost exclusively grey underclass- the excluded, the poor and those riddled with debt, pharmaceuticals and drink- live without passing liquid, sewers or energy apart from the little they can generate with solar panels.

In this photograph, Revon, 21, who occupies half of the battered, bullet-riddled bus with her 55 -year-old mother( the other half is occupied by a duet with two children ), fulfills Michael, 27, a former naval and Iraq veteran who has recently arrived in Slab City.

Henno, whose first movie, Koropa , followed beings smugglers and migrants on the Comoros and triumphed honors when released after 2016, specialises in documenting the lives of those who have fallen through the social cyberspace. This succession, developed from a cinema entitled Outremonde ( Underworld ) after the tale by Don DeLillo, was produced during the two months that Henno lived in Slab City in 2017. Even in an apocalyptic nightmare, Henno procures light-headed: Revon and Michael become sidekicks, then buffs after she introduces them, and Dave, a former drug- and alcohol-addicted evangelical clergyman, creates their home communities vegetable patch in the desert.

” I went back after a year and the bus in the picture was burned and Revon and Michael had gone their separate routes but the garden-variety was ripening ,” Henno says.” There were even tomatoes. It was something beautiful in this inferno: a Garden of Eden in the wilderness .”

Laura Henno: Saving, part of the festival Les Rencontres de la Photographie , guides from 2 July to 26 August at the Commanderie Sainte-Luce , Arles, France

Watch a time of Laura Henno’s short cinema Koropa

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