Sand Castles

Blinded by the sun, buds bloom, their stems burst from beneath the earth, adorned by the desire of others, strangers to their new forms. Cloaked by unfamiliar texture, foreign smells, youth and the separation it affords is propelled into an abyss where the remaining fabric of childhood is stripped away. The eyes remain closed, the sun is still too bright.

Oblivious to the power pulsing through their long legs, soft curves, swollen lips, teenagers in the desert tilt their heads toward the sun, until their bodies radiate the heat of the terrain. Photographer, Alon Shastel took to Mount Sodom and the Dead Sea region. The road to the vista on Mount Sodom, biblically, a place which had been replete with sin and the sinfully inclined, is surrounded by minefields and steep precipices. Shastel, who is drawn to the unintentional sensuality in youth chose the remote locale in order to depict what boredom looks like and what it leads to. Does it make you reach for the hot coal just to experience what pain feels like? “The view is worth it,” Shastel reassures from over his shoulder in the Jeep. Is experience worth the road that gets you to it? Once the experience is achieved, you are left with a view, a perception, both physical and metaphysical. But can a view be unseen? Can experience be reversed if it’s beyond what you intended? If you realize you regret having tasted, seen, touched or loved, how do you erase the markings on your heart? If the experience isn’t all that it is chalked up to be, can you revert to your previous self?

The series underscores what innocence looks like when the beholder may not see it as such, but as quite the opposite. Is childhood subjective or objective? Does physical maturation come hand in hand with adulthood? The connecting piece between childhood and adulthood seems to be experience. Shastel portrays how teenagers spend their time when experience is their only means for entertaining themselves. How childhood friendships evolve as sexual desire casts a glow across a previously matte surface. As they drive from the city of Yeruham to Mount Sodom, there are metal fences warning passersby that minefields lay on either side. The raw series, a depiction of maturation reminds us of the inevitability of desensitization facilitated by experience. The path though, to the vista, to experiences of adulthood, though it may seem frightening, can be safe and clear of mines. Ironically, the beauty of experience is only accessible through naive bravery, one rooted in youth.

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