“LET’S BULID A BAR IN THE DESERT…”
– Words by Alex Ames
It is said that there is a fine line between brilliant and crazy. Several months ago when David asked me to start thinking of ways to build a bar in the middle of the Namib desert, I feared he may have lost sight of the line. As the shoot grew nearer, and flights were booked to Namibia, it became abundantly clear that David was entirely serious about his idea, and we would soon need to find a method to accomplish his creative vision.
The Namib is the oldest desert in the world, whilst other regions have flourished and faded, the Namib has remained constant in its state of desolation. It was this sparse landscape that would provide the theatre for David’s latest bout of visual madness, his new image.
Despite my initial concerns and sense of being behind David’s private “creative curve”, we set about the task, hiring a resourceful fixer from Windhoek
called Ian Coulson. During the months leading up to the shoot, Ian’s determination and pragmatism saw him check off every prop on our wish list including a chandelier, two disco balls and a pool table. Before we knew it we had a truck packed full of gear, a truck that would have given Optimus Prime a run for his money.
Looking at the project as a whole, we had probably now arrived at Everest base camp; the next step was getting this formidable load to the heart of one of the world’s largest deserts. Luckily for us, it was Ian that completed this gruelling 10-hour drive a day in advance. Instead, we took a small bush plane to meet him there. The 90 minute flight afforded us the first chance to witness the vast expanse of the Namib desert. Red mountains rolled on for an eternity, each one unique, and more beautiful than the last.
When our small team eventually stepped off of the plane it was not earth but Mars that greeted us.
We dropped off our kit at camp and immediately launched into the logistics of building the bar. On David’s location recce he came across an enormous thousand-year-old petrified tree. It seemed fitting that this stalwart of the desert would frame the image and acted as an effective juxtaposition to the glamour of the bar scene we aimed to create below. As soon as the spot was chosen we radioed Ian to bring the truck. On cue, the Namibian Optimus Prime came hurtling across the desert in a plume of dust. Camp was set up and we could take stock of our surroundings. Suddenly, us and our monstrous truck, felt very small in comparison to the awesome scale of the desert.
For two days it was all hands on deck in the harsh African sun. We woke at four AM to photograph with Cheetahs in the dunes, then spent the days constructing the bar and interpreting David’s vision. Slowly but surely, with the help of some power tools and our resident handy man Ian, we turned wood and screws into our own oasis, fully stocked with beers to boost morale. After David himself
unveiled the pool table, a fleeting smile crossed his face. If a stranded soul had chanced upon our set, they surely would have given up hope, because the mirage in front of them was confirmation that they had gone mad.
When the models and Kalahari Bushmen who would populate the set arrived on scene their
reaction was affirming. They were tremendously overexcited. Across the two days, all those that helped; our pilot, Xander, Ian the fixer, Oli Riley, and myself formed a good comradery, and we are all very proud to have played our part in the image. Several months ago I thought it was crazy, but thanks to a great collective effort, persistence, and David’s vision, I now see that it was brilliant.