Yurian Quintanas Nobel – Happy Nothing

Yurian Quintanas Nobel

Happy Nothing

The desert represents decay and death. There is a scarcity of water and shade, extreme temperatures, and a lack of resources for humans to survive on. At the same time there is a long tradition of the desert as a place of healing, both physically and spiritually. With the Californian desert as a background, “Happy Nothing” delves into the lives of its inhabitants and its secrets. Here is where ex-convicts, war veterans, retirees and people that for some reason have decided to stay outside of society live. In these towns there is no running water, the houses are in ruins, the streets unpaved, no street lighting, there are no supermarkets or entertainment infrastructures, but despite living in these conditions, they call it the Paradise.

Consumerism, competitiveness and success are symbols of happiness in the First World, but is it real happiness? Are we happier the more material goods we have? Or perhaps happiness is measured by the amount of time we have to appreciate the world around us?




Yurian Quintanas Nobel was born in Amsterdam in 1983. He is currently living in Catalunya Yurian. His personal photographic projects focus on documenting people and their environment. After studying a specialization course in photojournalism at IDEP (Barcelona), he had the opportunity to assist recognized photographers from National Geographic including Tino Soriano and Annie Griffiths Belt.

In the last years Yurian has won awards and fellowships including: the 1st prize of the Vanguardia Magazine, (2007), the scholarship of the “XIII International Meetings Gijon photojournalism” (2009), and an honorable mention in the “Travel Photographer of the Year” (2011).


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Yurian Quintanas Nobel

6 Responses to “Yurian Quintanas Nobel – Happy Nothing”

  • Sorry, I haven’t had time to really digest the photos, but you almost lost me at “the desert represents decay and death. That’s kind of like saying “the supermarket represents slureees and deodorant. Sure, there are slurpees and deodorant in the supermarket, but they certainly do not represent it. Apparently, your subjects are quite aware of that fact and the question I ask is if you can’t understand the desert, how can you possibly understand these people who love it? Now that I think about it, I note that you mostly show the desert in its worst light. And it’s true, the desert’s worst light is terrible. Of course showing that part of it is fine, but it’s best light; it’s best light is simply glorious and there’s a hell of a lot of good light in between. Failing to show the desert in its good light just makes the subjects look crazy and stupid when everything else about them suggests they are more like crazy and wise.

  • I am not sure I agree with MW’s assertion that photographs should represent every aspect of every subject one takes on. The desert represents many things to many people. This is one of them. If you had a bunch of sunset images also representing the beauty of the place it would just feel distracting from the essential “point” of the essay.

  • Hi Yurian, I just love the last image. I have a question to ask though. Is there any specific reason for using flash in many images shown here?

  • I think everybody see things in a different way, and moving this to photography is more pronounced. Yuri can go to the desert and feel the place in a different way than mine or than another person…
    I like the pictures and when I was in the Death Valley and Mojave I saw something similar to some of these pictures. I love desert landscapes (Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan,..) and they transmit me peace and quiet, but I guess some people don´t like them. They prefer mountains, forests, or even snow. I agree with MW that there are another lights (beautiful ones!), but I understand this light is how Yuri saw that place and how he wants to represent it…
    About the flash, I think is an aesthetic appeal that some photographers use today.

    Happiness? I think is to feel well with oneself, nothing related to money. It´s a question of scale of values, know which things make us happy…


    P.S. Sorry if i don´t express myself very well in English…

  • One time I covered a gathering of the National Congress of American Indians held in Palm Springs. While the Southwest Desert is not an unfamiliar place to me, I had never been to the Salton Sea, so afterward I drove over in my rental car to see if I might find a cat to photograph there. On that trip, I saw all these places, and all these people and this is exactly how everything looked and felt.

    You could say that the whole world represents death and decay, as death and decay is the natural order of things, although decay can be arrested for a time both in places of extreme cold and extreme heat.

  • I don’t at all mean to blow a line or two in the statement all out of proportion. I generally like the photos and appreciate the use of flash, both as a practical matter and as a way to stay consistent with the overall theme. But Bill, your note that you drove over there one day and that’s exactly what you saw illustrates my point. That pretty much is exactly what anyone would see if they drove over there one day, or parachuted in as they say in more modern parlance. Spend more time there, however, and you’ll see much, much more.

    Anyway, I guess I’ll leave it with my editorial suggestion to change “The desert represents decay and death,” which reads like Charlton Heston speaking as God and narrating a documentary on Moses, to something more like “For me, the desert represents decay and death.” Cause we’re all entitled to our opinion and if that’s what it represents to you that’s fine, and if we can express it creatively through photography, so much the better, but when you say that the desert represents x and y in an absolute sense, no matter what x and y are, it’s going to come off as somewhat shallow. Cause it represents so much more. Or more likely nothing at all, but that’s another conversation.

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