Sand Sea 
Images by Brooke Holm

‘Travel broadens the mind’ is a well-worn cliché for a good reason. New places can quickly engender fresh ideas, but a truly unique and hitherto unknown environment can bring about radical new perspectives. Brooke Holm’s epic journey across the Namibian desert did just this, and her 2019 series Sand Sea reflects not only on our place in the world, but impending ecological disaster and the very nature of our existence.

The series documents the ever-changing landscape of the Namib Sand Sea, a vast desert spanning over three million hectares of Namibia’s South Atlantic coastline. An area of exceptional beauty, it is one of the only deserts in the world shaped and influenced by fog, making it home to some of the rarest and most unusual plants and animals on earth. Its challenging and unforgiving environment led Holm to hit upon our problematic relationship with nature: “There is a tension and a bond between the two of us.” She explains, “A power struggle and harmony…in some places, humans have altered the environment so drastically that it serves a new purpose and the cosmetic changes render it unrecognizable. In other places, the limit of humanity’s dominion over the environment is brought into question via terribly beautiful yet forbidding landscapes.”

Holm’s photography explores this ever-changing balance between humanity and the natural world through the fluctuating landscape of the desert. The shifting surfaces of the drifts and sandbanks mirror the shapes and fine textures of the human form. “The shapes, dips, lines, mounds... everything... the photographs reminded me of the human body. Particularly the female form, curvy, flowing, beautiful, natural…. it reminds me that we are one and the same and not separate from each other.”

Of course, like everything else in this part of the world, the series itself was influenced by the desert’s conditions as well. “There is a strong element of chance that comes into play when you are working within landscapes and nature.” She explains, “…You have very little control over what you are going to see or what the weather will be…having some flexibility is important in learning to work with nature instead of against it. If I thought I could control nature, it would go against the very reasoning as to why I do what I do.”

At the mercy of local weather patterns, Holm began to tap into the Sand Sea as a symbol of global climate concerns. She goes on: “Climate scientists in Gobabeb [a research centre] within the national park gather data on how living things can thrive in these very arid climates - seeking information and researching how humans and other species will be able to survive as the Earth becomes hotter and hotter.” Nevertheless, a contemplative and serene mood pervades the series, perhaps aided by the aerial perspective of the shots, a common feature in Holm’s other works.

A wide scope gave Holm pause for thought. Though the desert was a powerful reminder of our collective environmental failings, it’s sheer size and nebulous beauty brought her to dwell beyond this. “I love that the landscapes in the deserts are transient…it makes me want to cherish every second and really take the time to think about our universe as a whole and how little humans matter in terms of the scale of things…these landscapes have formed over millions of years and have been evolving long before we existed.”

Holm’s conclusions are at the same time arresting and strangely reassuring. No matter the outcome of our immediate fears and worries, the Sand Sea inevitably rolls on.

Brooke Holm is an Australian/American photographic artist whose work traverses dramatic landscapes, conceptual still life, considered interiors and architecture. Find out more at 

Feature written by Richard Ross.

Created by Duncan Woods & Seb Camilleri