We Are The Rhoads Make Their Own World
When Sarah and Chris Rhoads of We Are The Rhoads were gearing up for their latest collaboration with Tidal Magazine, they wanted to do something that would challenge them in a way that they're rarely challenged. They wanted to do something that felt totally foreign. Really foreign. Out of this world. “Chris and I are really into science fiction and cerebral things in that realm,” says Sarah. “We had just both finished reading Dune and I think there’s some of those influences in there. I knew that we wanted to shoot somewhere that felt like an unusual terrain. It was otherworldly in a way.” So they headed down to Pismo Beach, a preserve in Southern California with a wealth of sand dunes and rocky outcroppings. The space is like the sand seas of Dune’s Arrakis or Star Wars’ Tatooine or Jakku.
Dropping a whole photography production team into the middle of a field of sand dunes is inherently challenging because of the technology that they’re working with and the sensitivity of their instruments. It forced the photography duo to change how they worked together, shaping the outcome. “I think whenever you’re in one of those environments it really just requires a certain amount of foresight,” explains Chris. “There’s a certain amount of spontaneity in there. You have to go in with as much of a game plan as you can and then be flexible and open to how things naturally evolve.” They followed every moment to the next, working with the elements placed in front of them, finding success through their own agility.
“It’s like a Dali meets Alejandro Jodorowsky type influence,” explains Chris, drumming up imagery of viscerally provocative surrealism, which is what they drew upon for the structures that the models are engaging with in the photographs. “What I love about our prop people is you can kind of brainstorm with them and start with something that doesn’t feel really doable, and then they’ll build this thing in the middle of the desert,” he says.
Before they headed out to the location to shoot, they did all the necessary research and got the appropriate approvals. But when they arrived they found something they didn’t expect at all. “There was like a thousand people there,” Chris says while Sarah laughs. “We thought it was going to be a low-key quiet weekend up there but there were just thousands of off-roaders and monster trucks. It’s like this big off-roading destination. And here we are trying to have this remote alien landscape feel. While we’re trying to have that in the foreground, in the background there’s just pure chaos. But we had fun with it.” Their crew was totally accommodating to stay responsive, and together they found their necessary pockets of stillness and quietude, allowing them to maintain the integrity of the their concept. “It makes it interesting when you’re working in the elements, for sure, but that's what makes it fun,” says Sarah.