written by Marigold Warner
Published on 7 August 2020
Two years since the road-trip that marked the end of her relationship, Cremona revisits the images in which she sought refuge: “The only way to let go was to create something tangible and set it free”
Driving through the arid landscape of the Californian desert in April 2018, Elena Cremona captured twisting trees, either entangled or in solitude, splintering rocks, and giant boulders — leaning or trapped. Her relationship was ending, and seeking refuge in the landscape and in photography, she was unknowingly making images that reflected this state of mind. “Trying to be at one with nature in that moment was a way to escape the loneliness I felt in that relationship and focusing on something I knew I had a connection to — the landscape,” she says.
Cremona recalls the “constant ups-and-downs” as she journeyed through the desert plains with her ex-partner, winding through paths set between rugged mountains and groves of misfit trees. “When we passed through Joshua Tree — my favourite place in the world, and one which I was so excited to show him — our communication was the absolute worst,” she recalls. “We spent most of the time not talking to each other, or crying. It got to the point where the only sane thing for me to do was get out of the car and roam the landscape.”
“In relativity to human experience, landscapes are static things… it is us that moves through landscapes, shapes and colours them with our emotions, and remembers them ‘before’.”
Joanna L. Cresswell, excerpt from Postcards from the Past
The pictures from her trip remained untouched for six months. “They were too painful to associate with, because of all the emotions they triggered within me,” says Cremona, who eventually booked herself into a darkroom to develop the prints. Now, two years on, they are published as a series of 20 black-and-white “postcards”.
As Joanna Creswell explains in her accompanying text: “She called them postcards for the way she was feeling as she took them, wanting to remain in place geographically, but return to another time.” Cremona describes her practice as being “fueled by emotions, by reactions, and by capturing the truth of the matter.” Because of this, “the only way to process and let go was to create something tangible and set it free”.