Lieven Geuns’ photo project started life being about the Bonneville Salt Flats but turned right, and went down a rabbit hole called Wendover.

Photography Chronicle caught up with Belgian photographer, Lieven Geuns, to find out about a photo series that started out as one thing, and morphed into something different..

PC: Why were you there, what did you shoot, what did you feel? 

I am a lifelong petrolhead. Before studying photography, I worked in the automotive sector for about 3 years. I guess you could say cars are very much a part of my DNA. So, for me, it was always evident to shoot something with cars. Seeing the movie ‘The World’s Fastest Indian’ really fuelled the idea of visiting the Bonneville salt flats, and ultimately documenting these what went on there.

But things didn’t really go to schedule. I planned my first visit meticulously for many months and was very excited to finally leave. Bad news: the event was cancelled upon arrival. The salt crust was too thin to accommodate safe racing. This left me stranded on the salt flats so I started to take portraits of people that I met there.

Some came with the same intention as me, others were just tourists visiting this beautiful marvel of nature. Although it yielded some interesting portraits, I was still motivated to come back and document the nr1 land speed racing event. Another setback I had was that one of my Hasselblad backs leaked some light, so about 50% of the film I shot was not usable.

Fast forward another year, and I booked a new flight and flew out again with a lot of determination and a refurbished Hasselblad, but the event was cancelled again due to heavy rains. The weather left the salt flats flooded and me stranded, once more. It was during my stay in the 2 weeks that followed that I started to notice the little town – Wendover – on the end of the I80, adjacent to the flats. I guess it was at this moment that the narrative of my project started to change…

Imagine a nightly three-hour drive going west from Salt Lake City, that leads up to a distant neon glow; one might easily make a quick stop to get some gas or food. Wendover is a hot and dusty desert town. Its location – just across the Nevada border – make it legal gambling grounds.

People pausing on their way to Las Vegas and Utahns looking for some profane entertainment filling up the casinos. To an outsider’s eye, the town with its truck stops, military base, environmental compromise, casinos, and world record attempts, seems as American as it gets. From a photography point of view, it was very interesting. So, I intuitively started to photograph the daily life of this ambiguous Midwestern town. Its barren landscapes and superficialness possess some kind of beautiful loneliness that I tried registering through aesthetic and graphic compositions.

After spending a few weeks there, I realized it was much more interesting to expand the concept surrounding this work and I felt I had to include this magical place in my project. There was also some kind of common ground between the people who visited the casino’s and the petrolheads visiting the salt. The idea of escapism in the midst of a mid-western desert fascinated me.

The year that followed, the race got cancelled again and I decided to postpone a next visit until I was sure the event would really take place. The next year that followed it was finally race time. I packed my bags and documented the Mecca of the combustion engine. Eventually, I ended up with a document that shows a broad scope about the place. During the making of this project I was (very) frustrated more than once, but it also led me to interesting points of views and ultimately it led to the project as it stands now.

PC: What are your thoughts now that Godspeed is in the can? There seem elements of the American Dream in this project – a disparate group of people living life and chasing excellence in the desert?

That’s a very interesting point of view. But I guess the speed seekers and the visitors have some kind of American Dream in common. At the same time, there is also a kind of suffering in this work, on both sides. It seems that the dream will never be more than a dream. It seems that due to global warming and heavy potash mining activity, the race event is taking place less and less. The realization that it’s kind of a dying event only makes things more interesting. After my last photo on the salt flats in 2019, the event has only continued in full regalia once more.


The photographer

Lieven Geuns

Lieven Geuns is a 35 year old photographer/videographer/avid tomato grower and sourdough fanatic living and working in Peer, Belgium.

Other featured work

No results found.

Explore More

Quietly Getting On

Photographer Christian Doyle’s project beautifully captures the strength and resilience of 12 women born before WWII.

Read More


Spanish photographer Juan Galán’s documentary journey into existentialism based on Nikos Kazantzakis’ literary work – and its subsequent film adaptation, Zorba the Greek.

Read More

The Barracks

Colin Templeton’s project reveals the quiet beauty of a sprawling 1960’s brutalist housing estate in North Glasgow, known locally as The Barracks.

Read More

Light and Dark

Photographer Cary Jobe reacts to the current global political and social situation and posits the question – how do we heal our politics, our communities and ourselves?

Read More