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Structures of a Spanish Badland

Words and images by James Bugg

By March 23, 2021August 24th, 2021The Collective

In the Tabernas Desert I went searching for a geological feature called a ‘submarine fan’. What I found instead was a landscape which not only mimicked the badlands of the American West but also the cowboy culture it is known for. It was surreal, almost dreamlike. Located in Spain’s south eastern province Almeria, the Tabernas Desert is the result of a geological evolution spanning millions of years. Tectonic and Climatic events over this period have resulted in an eroded landscape not dissimilar to the badlands of America.

As I traversed the vast terrain by foot and at times testing the off road abilities of a Volkswagen Polo hire car, I came across the remnants of a time gone by. Nestled in the undulating landscape were old movie sets from the popular 1960’s film subgenre of ‘Spaghetti Westerns’. The sets were often elaborate, built as whole small towns, now only occupied by the occasional tourist and small casts of actors putting on shows for them. I was drawn to the way the constructed landscapes came undone at the edges. I wanted to photograph the intersection between these fictitious places and the reality of the harsh environment they had been constructed in. A place and a narrative held together by a timber frame and direction I photographed it from.


James Bugg

James Bugg (b.1996) is a documentary photographer based in Melbourne. Bugg is interested in visual storytelling exploring the relationships between people, place and circumstance. Working on long term projects within Australia his work explores subcultures that drift to the edges of society. In addition to his long term work Bugg completes freelance assignments for local and international publications and is a member of Australian photo collective Oculi.

Bugg was the recipient of the 2018 Moran Contemporary Photographic prize and received the People’s Choice Award in the 2018 Australian Photobook of the Year Award, for his self published book The Pines.

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