Apart from the surreal images snapped in one of the most sought after destinations in the world, today’s Wanderlust installment comes with a fascinating story. In winter 2014, Maya Beano explored Jordan with some friends and visited the Dead Sea for the first time since she moved to the United Kingdom around 10 years ago. It was also a different experience for her as it was the first time she visited in the colder season. “There was a refreshing chill in the air,” she mused, in contrast to the warm and humid days of her summer trips there as a child.
The Dead Sea, bordered by Jordan to the east and Israel and the West Bank to the west, has been on many travelers’ bucket list for being the world’s lowest elevation on land and one of the saltiest bodies of water on the planet. However, Maya also noted with sadness that it may not be a known fact that the Dead Sea is actually dying. “It’s losing its water at a very alarming rate, and the shoreline is receding every year,” she said.
While we’re sure you can’t help but stare in wonder at Maya’s dreamy travel snaps, we’re also urging you to read our insightful chat with her to learn more about her trip!
Can you introduce yourself to our readers and tell us what you do? How long have you been shooting with film? Anything keeping you busy or inspired aside from film photography?
I’m 25 years old, and I’ve been shooting film for about a year and a half now. I took a year out after graduating from university, and it was during that year that my love for film photography began. I currently do research in the medicinal world, and when I’m not in the lab, I’m out there travelling with friends and taking photos. Both, to me, feel like worlds of endless possibilities.
We’d like to know the basics of your trip to the Dead Sea with some friends. When was your visit and for how long did you stay there? Was your time there part of a bigger trip?
In winter 2014, some of my close friends and I decided to explore Jordan, the country that I grew up in. They’re an adventurous bunch, and I was so grateful to be able to share this experience with them. We visited a few places like the Dead Sea and the Rose City of Petra, where we climbed to what seemed like the top of the world on some impressively sturdy donkeys. We only spent two days at the Dead Sea, but they lasted forever (in a good way!)
You mentioned that you grew up in Jordan then moved to the United Kingdom around 10 years ago. Was this the first time you went to the Dead Sea after this move? Did you see or feel anything different during this visit?
Yes, it was the first time I’d been to the Dead Sea in 10 years. When I was a kid, my family and I spent days there every summer, and it was always one of my favourite places to visit. It’s a very humid place, and a light mist lingers above the sea for most of the day, partially blocking out the desert mountains in the distance. I had never been there in the wintertime until I went out there with my friends. During this visit, there were hardly any people about, and we had the sea all to ourselves at sunset. There was a refreshing chill in the air, and it was one of the most tranquil sunsets I’d experienced in a very long time.
While many of us may be familiar with the Dead Sea and its properties, we’re sure no one really knows it better than a local. How would you describe the Dead Sea to anyone who has never been there or never even heard about it? What’s the first thing that welcomes visitors to the Dead Sea and its surrounds?
I’m not sure if this is a well-known fact or not, but the Dead Sea is actually… dying. The peaceful feeling that I mentioned previously was actually mixed with great regret because I was incredibly saddened to see that the sea had shrunk so dramatically in the last 10 years. It’s losing its water at a very alarming rate, and the shoreline is receding every year, causing detrimental changes to the local environment. I heard that by 2050 it might be completely gone. The whole place has a very special aura and it would be a loss to both the locals and the travelers who love it so much. I can’t imagine heading out there and not being greeted by the beautiful sea haze.
We want to know about the analogue arsenal you brought along for this trip. Did you use any of your preferred camera + film combo? Seeing your results, did you achieve the look, mood, or story that you had in mind?
It was during this very trip that I first shot exclusively with film. I decided to leave my DSLR at home, and I only took a small point-and-shoot Canon film camera with me. It was actually a last minute decision due to packing constraints. I remember shooting on Lomography film and Kodak Portra, just because they were what I had lying around, but I didn’t know what to expect because I was at the very start of my film journey at that point. Sometimes, I set everything up and asked a fellow traveller to press the shutter before I ran into the frame. Most of the time, I just clicked when it felt right.
I had a vision for the images to flow nicely together in a series, and I thought it would be ideal if they came out on the surreal side, because that is what that day felt like, but I actually had no clue whether the results would match what was in my head. Some of them did, and others didn’t. Even now, after playing with tens of different film stocks and several cameras, I never know for sure whether the final image is going to match my vision for it. I feel I’m getting better at it, but I never know for sure. I take this all in stride and find that it motivates me to explore new ways of seeing things.
We’re definitely curious about the touch of surrealism throughout your work. Has this always been your chosen visual style? At which point in your film photography life did you realize it’s something that defines your creative visions, even for travel photography?
I’m interested in alternative perceptions, and daydreaming about ethereal, faraway lands is something that I’ve always greatly enjoyed. I would say that most of my work is an attempt to turn this mental imagery, and all the thoughts and feelings behind it, into something a bit more tangible. I hope that the people who see the work find something relatable in it, a long-lost feeling perhaps, or maybe just a gentle yearning for freedom and exploration.
What do you consider to be the highlight of your trip?
One of my friends brought goggles because she thought she might like to go for a dive in the Dead Sea. The water was so dense that it pushed her back up to the surface within seconds, and she emerged with a sore face because the salt more than tingled. We all commended her for trying something that no local dares to experience.
Can you give an important piece of travel advice for film photographers like yourself, especially for those who are looking into crafting their own visual stories in iconic locations or landmarks such as the Dead Sea? Any places of interest or landmarks to recommend to anyone thinking of visiting the Dead Sea and even Jordan for the first time?
Landmarks I would totally recommend are the Dead Sea, of course, and a vast red desert called Wadi Rum, the Valley of the Moon. My advice would be to explore a lot of different places, but to focus on photographing those moments which make you feel something. To me, it’s all about waiting for the right feeling, even if it means waiting for hours or even days between shots. For versatility, I like using multiple film cameras simultaneaously. Also, while I shoot film almost exclusively nowadays, I occasionally still use my DSLR for the night sky or very low light landscapes.
Lastly, if you could take just one camera and one roll of film to a dream destination, where would it be, which camera and film would you bring, and what will you make sure to take photos of?
I have actually always been hugely inspired by Carmen Marchena’s photos. I have been a follower of hers on Flickr for a few years now. Her photos of Greenland are out of this world. I think I’d go out there with a Canon A1 and Revolog 460 film, but I doubt my photos would ever do the place justice! Maybe if I’m lucky enough I’ll finally get to see a polar bear.
To see more of Maya’s photos around The Dead Sea and the rest of her works, please head to the links below: