Imagine walking on the moon, your mind enveloped in a gradation of iridescent colours, the air infused with a profound spirituality... and you would get close to the feeling that photographer Marie Valencia (@em_space) experienced during her road trip through South Australia. One of the most arid states of the country, it is mostly inhabited with an extreme wilderness, and the majority of its population is concentrated in the state capital, Adelaide. More than 30 Aboriginal groups call the territory of South Australia home, and many sites embody their cultural and spiritual beliefs that shape the Creation or Dreaming stories of the country. Through this luminous series, Marie shares her amazement in front of the dreamscapes the outback has to offer.
Driven by her curiosity for natural wonders, Marie went north of Adelaide, to explore salt lakes. Lake Bumbunga was her first encounter with this kind of local landscapes. Its palette of changing pastel hues spreads across the horizon and creates a picturesque scenery. Bubblegum pink, white, the colours vary depending on the salinity and time of the year. The low water level makes it possible to walk on the lake, experiencing the different textures of the ground.
Marie’s whetted appetite for salt lakes guided her to the surroundings of the small city of Whyalla. There she captured the intense and soothing orange, blue and pink shades of the lakes. A captivating view she sensed as dreamy and magic. The Whyalla coastal area also surprised her with its idyllic sand beaches and the Point Lowly lighthouse, one of the oldest building around.
Pursuing her adventure in the outback, Marie traveled to the otherworldly Coober Pedy, undoubtedly a highlight of her trip. Nine hours north of Adelaide, the ride to reach this area is already a journey in itself.
The drive takes you past shimmering salt lakes, scrub bushes, skeletal trees and vast expanses of burnt orange dusted lands.
Endless roads leading to this deeply remote part of South Australia give free reins to the imagination; a feeling of immensity, the thrill of being ready for anything; the tumbleweed rolling across the road adding to the expectation of what this hostile but very intriguing nature could reveal.
Upon entering the town of Coober Pedy, mining fields and mounds of sandstones show what the core of the local industry is made of. The remote city is the "Opal capital", producing 95% of the world’s commercial opal. For more than a century, this precious stone has been attracting people in hope of a stroke of luck, digging eagerly for sparkling and vividly coloured gems. There is even more than meets the eye however, beneath the surface of the lunar landscape covered in ocher dust. Nature doesn’t lower her guard so easily, and the humans have to endure extreme daytime heat, annoying flies and chilly nights. The solution to survive in these conditions comes in the form of below-ground homes: the "dugouts". Marie enjoyed her stay at the Desert Cave Undergound Hotel and visited the underground bars, restaurants and churches of this unearthly land.
The Kanku-Breakaways Conservation Park is where Marie, in her own words, would happily get lost. The 15,000 hectares territory is Aboriginal owned, as it is part of the country of the Antakirinja Matuntjara Yankunytjatjara people. The vastness of the place is only interrupted by low hills separated from the Stuart Range, as if broken away, giving half of its name to the park.
Aboriginal people are deeply connected spiritually to all elements and the Kanku’s country is ground to abundant Dreaming stories. This registered heritage site and its majestic scenery emphasises their belief that the landscape is a living body.
There is a sacredness in the air that surrounds you as you observe the beautiful & ancient land — once entirely covered by the sea 70 million years ago.
Marie is a Philippine born, New Zealand-based photographer whose passion for travel leads her on adventures in pursuit of a unique perspective. Having a background in graphic design, her style encompasses a mixture of symmetry, balance and beauty while documenting the hidden beauty of our world and the stories they tell. Her work aims to inspire others to keep exploring and embrace the meaningful experiences that unfold along the way.