Tomeu Coll – Austral Dust

Tomeu Coll

Austral Dust

Give it all up again. Hit the Road.  –Roberto Bolaño

I heard about a place in Chile where there lived the “Inhabitants of the Stars”. This story was told by a friend that might have be there if she was not swimming with whales on the way to the Antarctica.

This place she was talking about was a wilderness, the highest desert on the planet, or as many say, a land nearly touching outer space. I also remember that she told me stories about an ancient community fighting for something more important than the progress or the “future” that everybody is talking about.

Chile, from north to south, is full of stories. From shipwrecks, mythological beings and legends lost in the immensity of the past, to aliens and conquests that appear in dreams. Trying to find the crossroads of the paths between legend and reality was what was intended.

Sometimes photography gives you that second chance to hear the present while imagining a past.

It all began under the Chile’s night, on the most austral corner of our planet.

We found plenty of stories about species from distant galaxies visiting, flying saucers, giants walking through the deserts, about extraterrestrial artists painting murals on the canyons in the middle of the dry sands of Atacama desert… Gabriela Mistral was also an alien, and a writer. Now, the valley where she was born has become a special place where the human sells services like looking at the night sky searching for visitors. Although this time these observations are not organized by space agencies like they were in the past.

“The People of the Stars”, the small local communities that populated these lands of volcanoes for thousands of years discovered other ways of subsistence.

Luckily, a thousand kilometers to the south, as my friend told me, there are still lands where you can find people that really melt with the ground of their ancestors. Nobody has been able to conquer Araucanía. The Mapuche community still claim their dreams, with their horses and spears, but this time they don’t fight against spaniards nor Inca’s. Nowadays the enemies are the new gigantic dams that have been sculpted in their valleys.

We walked 4.000 kilometers searchig for some truth and this is what we found.



Tomeu Coll was born in 1981. He won several photojournalism and documentary photography awards, between them, two consecutive years the Award of Photojournalism of Illes Balears. He has been selected as Emergent Photographer by the Smithsonian Magazine for his ongoing project “Badlands” and has participated in several exhibitions in Spain and New York, both collective and individuals, highlightning the collective “What Matters Now” in Aperture Gallery (NY) curated by Melissa Harris, Fred Ritchin and Yolanda Cuomo, an individual exhibition in The National Gallery in New York and the Winter Festival of Sarajevo, curated by Ellen James. He has also been involved in the creative visual edition of many videos for the project “I Am Unbeatable” by Donna Ferrato.

Nowadays he is working as a freelance and accepts assignments throughout the world. He is based between Spain and New York.


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Tomeu Coll


12 Responses to “Tomeu Coll – Austral Dust”

  • The night time time landscapes are stunning. 5 and 9 seem out of place though.

  • Hi hharry,

    thank you first, and about the 5, well, it’s the song of the stars played by humans in that alien place… That woman was singing Violeta Parra in the bus and Violeta was for about two months in my headphones. I know it’s a personal thing, but I couldn’t avoid.


  • Tomeu! Northern Chile and Southern Bolivia are from another planet…

    Try to watch the documentary “Nostalgia de la Luz” de Patricio Guzmán, 2010. Chileans looking for their (Pinochet murdered) relatives in Atacama desert and astronomers looking to the starts a few miles away, in the biggest observatory in the world.
    Past and Future in the same place!

    Abrazo transandino. Patricio

  • Patricio,

    Yes, that place really looks from another planet, or at least you can feel like that there.
    I already watched Nostalgia de la Luz. I love it. It was a truly inspiration that came with me, as Roberto Bolaño and Violeta Parra. And of course my friend. She’s not between us anymore, but riding with whales is a nice place to be. Missing her so much.

    thanks Patricio!

  • i really enjoyed the story. number 4 gives me that feeling of greatness i get myself when looking at the stars.

  • Lyrical essay – magical, even. When I first reached 5, my initial reaction was the same as hharry’s, but when I thought it about I realized this woman and those pictured in other seemingly incongruous images all live under the same starry sky, which looks close but is impossible to grasp. Then the incongruous images all seemed congruous.

  • Love love love the first image. Awesome stuff.

  • I like the story and the pictures. They “match” pretty well. My fav pictures are 1, 10 and 11.


  • eduardo sepulveda

    I curse, in sky-high,
    the star and its reflections.
    I curse the tiles
    flashing on the stream.
    I curse, in the under ground,
    the stone with its contour,
    I curse the furnace’s fire
    because my soul is mourning.
    I curse the statutes of time
    with their embarrassments.
    How big is my pain…

    I curse the Cordillera
    de los Andes and the Coast’s.
    I curse, Lord, this narrow
    and long piece of land.
    Also, the peace and war,
    what’s frank and what’s volatile,
    I curse what’s perfumed
    because my desire is dead.
    I curse everything that’s true
    and what’s false and what’s doubtful.
    How big is my pain…

    From I curse in sky-high, Violeta Parra.

  • eduardo sepulveda

    ‘America is not so much a nightmare as a non-dream. The American non-dream is precisely a move to wipe the dream out of existence. The dream is a spontaneous happening and therefore dangerous to a control system set up by the non-dreamers.’

    William S. Burroughs

  • Thanks to all for your comments! And special thanks to Eduardo Sepulveda, Violeta Parra is so great, and Nicanor even better but without guitar.

    Non-dream or dream, any place in the world can become special, all depends how deep we are ready to go.

  • Just found this! It’s fantastic work. Very interesting. A take on photographing this kind of landscape I have not seen before.

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