Endless stretches of salt, lakes with psychedelic colors, and active volcanoes: this land, which is constantly changing, is heaven and hell together—an ancestral place where you can still watch the phenomena that gave rise to the world.
Located in the northern part of the Afar Triangle, which takes its name from the nomadic people who live there, the vast Danakil Depression is the place where the constant expansions of three tectonic plates join together, close to the border area among Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti.
This land made of fire, salt and lava, close to the Rift Valley (the long breach that bisects the continent) is a ghost ocean. It is from the retreat of the sea, evaporated 20,000 years ago, that the Danakil has gained its peculiarity: to be a spread of evaporite rocks that give rise to the Great Plain of Salt, a desert which stretches for about 600 kilometers.
This is one of the most vulnerable places in the world; the fire is just below our feet, five kilometers away. There is a crust that is subjected to stresses of all kinds, a part of the planet where you feel the throbbing heart of the Earth. In this vast plain, the Afars’ huts, built with mud and twigs, appear like a mirage. These nomads, which are mainly devoted to the extraction of minerals, live in one of the most inhospitable places on earth—the hottest inhabited place in the world—with very little vegetation and temperatures that can reach 120 Fahrenheit degrees.
The Afar people seem to have appeared from nowhere. They have kept a strong identity without having a testimony to their story. Their economy was, and is, precarious. They are nomads struggling with the hostility of the climate. Their population growth has always been modest. They have gained, in time, a good reputation as warriors. They have adapted to survive in a harsh and impossible land.
This series from Danakil was commissioned by The New York Times Magazine and has recently become a New York Times virtual reality documentary.
Andrea Frazzetta was born in Lecce, in southern Italy. He grew up in Milan, where he studied art and architecture. One week after graduation, he took a flight to the Amazon Rainforest, following a small NGO, where he worked on his first photo story. Since then, he has devoted himself entirely to photography, using it as a means for discovery and storytelling. Andrea has worked on personal projects and assignments in more than 50 countries around the world, mainly in Africa, South America and the Mediterranean.
Andrea is a contributor to The New York Times Magazine and National Geographic.
He has exhibited and screened his photographs in a large number of personal and collective exhibitions, including The Festival of Arles, the Noorderlicht International Photofestival, and the International Photojournalism Festival of Perpignan.
Andrea’s work has been recognized through several photography awards, including the Canon Prize Italian Young Photographer, the Yann Geffroy Award (for his story “Obama Village”), the PDN photo annual (for his work on the African Cinema commissioned by The New York Times Magazine), and the American Photography (for his work from Tokyo published by Newsweek).