Anarchy And Freedom: Joe Pettet-Smith Photographs A Post-Apocalyptic Festival

Anarchy And Freedom: Joe Pettet-Smith Photographs A Post-Apocalyptic Festival

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Every year, 4000 enthusiasts from around the world gather in the heat and dust of the Mojave Desert to recreate the world of Mad Max, the popular dystopian action film series. Wasteland Weekend is the world’s largest post-apocalyptic-themed festival; over the course of a few days, a temporary community is created—inspired by elements of George Miller’s films. Dune buggies, themed camps, and climbable art structures give attendees the chance to live out an imagined apocalypse, whilst dressed like various characters from the films. “This is a place where costumes are mandatory, of warring tribes, thunderdome battles, and Mad Max vehicle parades,” Pettet-Smith says. Visitors attend on the promise of chaos and freedom, however the people Pettet-Smith encountered were far from riotous; in fact, they were radically inclusive and kind. “Crowds drift through the dust dressed in haphazard combinations of leather, weathered sportswear, and pseudo-military uniforms,” he explains. In a wider context, Pettet-Smith asserts that the festival’s increasing popularity speaks volumes of our collective anxieties about an uncertain future. “It not only offers participants escape from the pressures of contemporary society,” he says, “but also a cathartic way of dealing with an uncertain future.”


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