There is a certain stillness to the desert that is unlike anywhere else. It is hypnotic and full-bodied: an otherworldly energy that you can feel like static on your skin, strangely calming even as it unsettles you. You can see it in the long black shadows the sun casts on the desert floor, the cloudless yawn of blue sky stretching endlessly above, the quick blessing of a cool breeze sweeping past. The desert exists at the crossroads of isolation and intimacy, the place where the world goes quiet and you can finally hear all the things you have been trying to say to yourself.
This editorial, which comes to us from the minds and hearts of friends and collaborators Melina DiMarco and Bridget Jacobs, embodies the raw vulnerability and fearless intimacy of the desert landscape, that powerful stillness that seems to strip everything down to its core, allowing you to be fully yourself. Jacobs and DiMarco sought out Joshua Tree for this photo series because they wanted somewhere that they could create based simply on how they felt in that particular moment, a place where boundaries, expectations, and rules ceased to exist, a place where they could distance themselves from doubt and immerse themselves in creativity.
Both women are open about their struggles with anxiety and how crippling it can be, especially in terms of creativity, and these photos capture a luminous feeling of catharsis, as both photographer and muse push forward through insecurity and anxiety to create something that feels unique, determined, and above all, honest. Between their close collaboration and the powerful energy of the desert, they were able to create a safe environment built on trust and openness, one that allowed both of them to accept their anxiety and then let it go, to lean into what scared them and in doing so become the fullest versions of themselves.
Anxiety has a way of sinking deeper into your skin when you try to keep it hidden, the way things are always worse in our minds than when we say them out loud, how our fears become lighter when we share their weight with someone else. These photos embody the inner strength that comes from taking back ownership of your own self, at once exposing and embracing what is usually kept hidden. As DiMarco puts it, “If nothing else, we wanted truth. There are times when anxiety limits our ability to create, and there is absolutely no shame in that. This opportunity allowed us to push forward and despite many overwhelming feelings, we came together to tell our story.”
And what a gorgeous and powerful story it is, brimming with boldness, juxtaposing the mystical energy of the landscape with the quiet emotion flickering across DiMarco’s face. She is stripped down and naturally striking, in an outfit fit for the strangeness of the desert, with sheer red fabric wrapped artfully around her torso. Billowing in the breeze, it curls gracefully around her body like liquid or heat, a gentle yet vivid reminder of the fierceness of a woman’s strength.