There’s a ghost town in the desert sands of Namibia called Kolmanskop. It was built to house workers in a diamond mine, but the mine closed half a century ago, and now the town is slowly being reclaimed by the sand dunes.
For this weekend only, there’s a house in Fitzroy which, mere days from demolition, has been turned into a pop-up desert and gallery. It’s the brainchild of Melbourne photographer Emma McEvoy, who made the trek to Kolmanskop and returned with a collection of spectacular images.
From the outside, 3 Hertford Street is an abandoned sharehouse. Beyond the threshold, it’s been gutted and filled with sand. Lining the walls are McEvoy’s photographs from the other side of the world. It’s eerie how much the photographs resemble their new environment.
“I’d been reading about this town for years and I finally went in November last year,” says McEvoy. “You’re only supposed to go there on tours, but the tours are in the middle of the day so the light is no good. And they wouldn’t give me a photography permit.”
So McEvoy went at dusk, outside of the tour group and without a permit. The results are serene, strange and beautiful.
On returning from Namibia, McEvoy scoured the city for abandoned houses trying to find the right atmosphere. Eventually a property development company, Milieu, offered her the condemned Hertford Street property. It’ll be knocked down the day after the exhibition closes.
“I wanted to bring it here because a lot of people won’t get to experience this town,” says McEvoy.
If you want to see the real dunes of Kolmanskop, you’ll have to go soon: it’s estimated that the village will be completely swallowed by sand in the next 10 to 15 years. If you want to see McEvoy’s photographs, you’ve only got this weekend.
Take your shoes off at the door. It’s sandy.