Portfolio: Pamela Littky's book Vacancy provides a snapshot of the 'Gateway to Death Valley'


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The Independent Culture

Death Valley, in California's Mojave Desert, holds the record for the highest temperature ever measured: 56.7C, back in 1913.

Two towns – Baker, California and Beatty, Nevada – both refer to themselves as the "Gateway to Death Valley", and it is these modest settlements that Los Angeles-based photographer Pamela Littky chose to document for her book Vacancy.

"'Gateway to Death Valley' sounded so macabre and ominous to me," says Littky. "The title alone piqued my interest, but when I dug deeper, I found tight-knit communities of people who were independent, hardy and idiosyncratic. And the unrelenting landscape and domestic scenes looked nothing like what I see in my own day-to-day life."

The book provides a snapshot of both the towns and their people. From 2009 to 2012 Littky slowly built up the trust of her subjects. "I was drawn to the fact that they chose to make their homes in not only a very remote area, but in one with such extreme conditions," she says. "It's not easy to endure and this comes across on their weathered faces."


Littky, who is more used to photographing the rich and famous, enjoyed the honesty that comes from observing real people, most of whom are not comfortable with being in front of a lens.

"While my experience in meeting and working with so many of these people was really quite wonderful, overall the photos themselves definitely have a sense of sadness and loneliness to them."

'Vacancy' by Pamela Littky is published by Kehrer. For more: pamelalittky.com