On November 8th, 2018 my life took a major turn along with my entire community. I will never forget the color of the sky that morning, the smell of smoke in the air, and the hot ash raining down. The Camp Fire raged through the ridges and ravines in Butte County in a matter of hours. While trying to evacuate I remember vividly the sky looking like night, my car windows being too hot to touch, and debris from a fiery tree limb smoldering on the hood of my car. At that moment, I surrendered to the thought of not surviving. Inching forward in thick black smoke with flames licking the surface of my car, those moments feeling like hours, my heart racing, praying I’ll survive, and then suddenly the darkness fades and the morning sun piercing my eyes. I made it out. My hands tightly gripping the steering wheel, I accelerate and, literally, escape hell.
Many of those who lost their homes that day have an image of their ruins. The Phoenix series allowed me to work with other Camp Fire survivors. With the use of a projector, I overlaid the image of their burnt home onto their current home and then, made a photograph. Whether it’s an RV on their scarred property, an in-progress rebuild, a newly purchased home, or a rental in another city; this series chronicles the way people carry on despite devastation.
In the Rebuilding series, these black and white split-tone photographs are of empty lots in my old neighborhood in the town of Paradise, CA. They document the evidence and reality of the current landscape. The painted outline references the homes in my new neighborhood, which represent the recreation of a new home and life. While the use of gold paint symbolizes the monetizing of a disaster and a precious dream. The titles for the Rebuilding series are the responses heard from other Camp Fire survivors in regard to the question— “Are you going to rebuild?” And my response, “I already have.”
The Suburbanization series begins to explore my shifted thoughts about place, home, and the human presence in nature post-Camp Fire. Creating a juxtaposition of the untouched terrain mixed with the symbol of home, these ideas are commenting on suburban sprawl in uninhabitable places.