"I Danced in the Desert" by Marguerite Empey (Photographs by David M. Mills) as published in the November 1955 issue of Art Photography.
Pleasant recollections have proven to be even more tenacious than desert sand. Although I have shaken and danced the last of the sticky particles out of clothing and toe shoes, I still love to tell my friends of the desert's glory.
To catch its splendor, the photographer David Mills and I met at six-thirty one Tuesday morning to face a dark wintry sky. A two-hour drive from Hollywood gave us time to review our plans for shooting and to become sufficiently awake to enjoy searching for the right location. Neither of us was well acquainted with the area or with the whims of drifting sand, but we soon found an ideal spot.
Exploring off the main highway, we drove down narrow unpaved roads between towering date palms and orange trees. The exotic atmosphere allowed my imagination to transform the pigs beneath the trees into Bedouins with their camels. However, I realistically restrained Mr. Mills from using too much film on this subordinate subject, lest he run out of film before we accomplished our mission.
At the end of the road only a "dry" arroyo separated us from our goal. But this arroyo contained some very wet mud from a recent shower. Mr. Mills, with his cameras and equipment, strode manfully through, coming out with a completely disguised pair of shoes. This didn't look like much fun, so I took mine off and walked across, squishing the mud through my toes as I went. My moment of happy idiocy was shortlived, however, for I arrived at the opposite bank with messy feet and nothing with which to clean them. Fortunately, as we climbed to our photographic site, the dry warm sand made them as clean as if they had been washed.
While Mr. Mills arranged his equipment, I began a preliminary skirmish with the wind over the management of my hair. The wind was quite playful, so I had to settle for a sort of compromise.
Our plan for dance-action shots went very well. It was one of those infrequent days when one pose flows smoothly into another without apparent effort or thought. Two hours of leaping and turning in the sand made me ready to enjoy working in a more leisurely manner. I began to feel sorry for the photographer, weighted as he was with meters and film and lenses while I had nothing but the sun and breeze for a garment.
Sometimes the best pictures happen by chance abetted by a good photographer's alert artistry. That day, two of my favorite pictures were taken: one while I was getting up from a reclining pose and the other while I was resting. I feel confident that when working with Mr. Mills, no happy combination of position and background will be wasted.
The third and fourth hours spent in the hot sun left us thirstier than I had ever been. When the film ran out we were both glad to plod back across the dunes and the slightly drier arroyo to the car. Then to Palm Springs for lunch--preceded first by four glasses of water each! Still attracted by cold foods, we ate ice cream cones on our tour of the town before leaving.
The lengthening shadows of roadside palms and orange trees beat a silent but rhythmic tattoo on my drowsy vision during the ride back to Hollywood, where we sifted out sand, desert dreams, and eventually, the successful photos which we are proud to show you.