Throughout history, salt has been such an essential element of life that it is replete in stories, fables and folklore and is even often mentioned in fairy tales. It was currency during ancient epochs, and armies have waged battle, spilling blood over it. Salt was in general use long before recorded history as we know it.
Some 2,700 years B.C. or approximately 4,700 years ago, the earliest reference to salt appeared, where a major portion of this literature was devoted to a discourse on more than 40 varieties of salt. In other words, salt is, was and will continue to be an important element in our daily lives.
Giving us a glimpse of what bastions of salt must have looked like, Melbourne-based photographer Emma Phillips shot the seemingly endless, hilly landscape of an abandoned salt mine in her collection simply called Salt. Presented as a photo book, the series contains images of white, sparsely detailed salt dunes against the backdrop of pastel blue skies. Such a landscape must have triggered ancient conflict, and the rise or fall of civilizations.
Mining gear and deserted vehicles are the only objects that punctuate the otherwise monotonous, endless tracks of salt, giving the only evidence of former human activity. The minimalist photographs are of the salt mine in the Nullarbor Plain of Western Australia. Phillips focuses on the visual peculiarity of vast mountain-like plains comprised entirely of salt.
Phillips came across the mine unintentionally, and took generous amounts of photographs to capture as much of the barren landscape as possible. “I walked through the gates and started taking pictures. I didn’t ask anyone. The whole project was shot in about an hour. The mine itself is actually quite small. There’s not much sense of scale in the photographs and that’s the way I tried to shoot it,” said Phillips.
Salt has been seen in solo and group exhibitions in China, Malaysia, as well as Australia.