As a child I remember waking up in the dead of night, my mother hovering over the corner of my bed, "We have to leave honey, don't worry we will come back," she said. Over the decades, my small mountain town in Northern California has been threatened by several wildfires. Miles of dry land and days of high-speed winds are the simple recipe for disaster. Having been evacuated once as a child the terrifying memories rushed back as I got a call from my father this past September. They were leaving our home for a few days seeking safety from what would end up being the 7th most distructive fire in California history.The Butte Fire distroyed 70,868 acers of land and nearly 1,000 structures.
Now, as I settle in Australia I see this same natural disasters plaguing the lands around me. Recently, in late November, a deadly bushfire distroyed houses and over 300,000 acers of bushland. Whether it be arsonist or accident, contained flames or out-of-control natural disaster, wildfires are a sight to behold. Any sight like this inevitablely lends itself to stricking imagery, and as a photographer I am naturally drawn in.
In late 2013 and early 2014 Australian landscape photographer, Andrew Merry, captured the stunning harshness that had been sweeping areas in the Blue Mountains. While looking through past Head On Photo Festival exhibitions I found this one hit so close to home. As a photographer I want to grab a camera a jet into the flames but, as a resident I want to pack my belongings and leave. Merry's exhibition gave me time to think about this contrast between capturing images and containing the memory of a disaster. Maybe next time I'll skip the evacuation and pack my camera bag.