Photos from the Alien Landscape of Socotra

by An Xiao on March 26, 2012

Dragon blood trees on the island of Socotra. Image by Jonah Kessel.

Dragon blood trees on the island of Socotra. (All images courtesy the artist, and copyright Jonah Kessel)

LOS ANGELES — Socotra. Most of us have never heard of it. Officially part of the Republic of Yemen, the island has long been isolated geologically from the rest of the world. As a result, its landscape and biodiversity developed on a totally separate track, creating an ecological landscape now recognized by UNESCO as a world natural heritage site.

I recently came across the images of photographer Jonah Kessel, who visited Socotra and, happily, shared his stunning pictures with us in a series of posts from his visit to the island. Indeed, the images look like they could be from the Mediterranean, or maybe east Africa, or maybe central California, but little details seem completely foreign.

“Landscapes. Cityscapes. Nightscapes. Yeh, done that,” writes Kessel, a world traveler I’ve had the pleasure of sharing a few beers with in Beijing.  “However, not until I landed in Socotra did I get to take some Mars-scapes. Ok, maybe it doesn’t look like as desolate as Mars, but this place does look pretty alien like.”

Kessel’s series can be found online, but I’d love to full-size prints one day.  It’s certainly worth a click through.

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  • And to see a stunningly beautiful photography book called “Socotra. An island,” by the German photographer Claudius Schulze go to Socotra, represented in Schulze’s book, indeed is a real and exotic isle, but he presents within Socotra also the idea of what an island symbolizes, of mythical imagination and representation of the island as a metaphor: islands as escape; as imaginary and exotic possibility. 

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