As a lover of both art and science, the process of photographing controlled burns has been a perfect fit, enabling me to focus on the ephemeral nature of fire and smoke. For more than 15 years I have been embedded with controlled burn teams across central and southern Wisconsin, which resulted in more than 1000 large format black and white negatives.
The selection here, all available in my book Firelines, meets my goal which is to show the moment of transformation in the landscape.
William Howells in 1825, expressed my feeings well:
“The fire started in the dry leaves in the woods. When night came on and the wind settled with a prospect of rain, we felt no fear of danger, we found a compensation in the illumination we had, for every one of these dead trees stood out against the darkness like a giant candelabrum of most fantastic design, with the little tongues of flame starting from every point of the branches, looking as if it held a thousand tapers of varying size. The fields were full of them and the scene was grandly fairy-like.”