Arriving in the desert
It’s November 2016 and I find myself en-route to Borrego Springs in the California desert. I arrived into Borrego Springs from San Diego at night and I missed the spectacle of arriving at the edge of the mountains to look over a 3000ft decent into Borrego Springs below. I did however see it on the way out.
I was there to photograph the Borrego Springs Resort, which is truly an Oasis in the middle of the desert. Borrego Springs Is a very small town indeed, with a population of just over 3,000 people. Borrego Springs has a bog feeder market from San Diego and Los Angeles, which are both within 2 hours drive.
The cozy 100 room resort boasts two swimming pools, a spa, restaurant, bar and 18 hole golf course with spectacular views of the mountains. The mountains never looked the same throughout the day with the changing shadows and light.
When I photograph hotels, particularly for this client, they like to have a few photographs from the local area to connect the hotel with the attractions nearby. These attractions are usually the reason the customer will come to the hotel in the first place, or in some cases they will be an unexpected experience added to their stay.
We headed out into the desert. Kathryn (my client), took Stephen (my assistant) and I to see and photograph a couple of the 130 random metal sculptures dotted around the desert basin. The eerie rusty metal sculptures captivate your attention on a desert road, which has an otherwise mundane landscape. When you see one Sculpture and then another, you find yourself stimulated and actively scanning the horizon to find the next one.
Some are close to the road and others way off in the distance. But one in particular is conspicuously placed to greet drivers entering from the north on Borrego Springs Road. It is a 350ft-long Sand Serpent, or Dragon that appears to be winding its way across the road. Such a surprising sight means there is usually a car or two stopped by the big dragon taking photos. It’s not unusual to find a group of people camped out next to these sculptures enjoying their company. They are also a great focal point where people meet to gaze at the night sky.
Borrego Springs and especially the Anza-Borrego desert is a very quiet place on earth and is also an excellent place to see the stars. There is Very little light pollution. Unfortunately when we were there we had the biggest light polluter of them all, the biggest super moon there has been in the last 70 years.
Finding Ricardo Breceda – The Artist
When my assistant and I left Borrego Springs on Wednesday heading for Las Vegas, we were about an hour out when we started seeing more of the same sculptures as we saw in Borrego. Then as we passed a clump of trees to the side of the road an opening revealed dozens of these sculptures lined up like an army of Roman centurions. Except they were all different.
There were bulls, dinosaurs, characters on horses and prehistoric looking monsters. We’d either discovered a graveyard of them or their birthplace. It was the latter of the two fortunately. Not only that. When we got out of the car, we were approached by a man who we thought was a salesperson, but it turned out to be Ricardo Breceda, the artist and creator of these wonderful sculptures. We chatted with him about his work and the history of the Borrego Springs sculptures.
Ricardo explained to us how the late Dennis Avery, creator of the famous Avery label company was the mastermind and benefactor behind bringing the sculptures to Borrego Springs. Dennis was the owner of the Galleta Meadows land which covers acres and acres of land throughout Borrego Springs. During our discussion, Ricardo made sure we understood that he and Borrego Springs owe a lot of their success to Dennis Avery and he couldn’t have been more complementary of him. He told us how he was a very down to earth man and how he was very kind and good hearted and he did great things without looking for recognition.
Ricardo’s business appears to be thriving and his sales are quite strong. He told us people often wonder what on earth they would do with one of the sculptures when they first see them. Then they find one they like and buy it. Ricardo told us that many people come back a few months later to buy another and another.
I was fortunate enough to be able to do some drone photography and drone video over the dragon and so it seemed fitting that I was able to do another video clip and more aerial photography over this cache of metal sculptures waiting to be purchased and head off into the world to mesmerize people in locations all over the country.
I feel ever you find yourself driving through the Californian desert towards San Diego, highly recommend a detour to Borrego Springs to see the sculptures as well as visit the Anza-Borrego state park.
Here’s a short video to give you a feel of how it is in the Borrego desert with Ricardo’s sculptures.
To see more of Ricardo Breceda’s Sculptures visit his web site here