Camp Fire devastated Paradise, a town of the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in California, in November 2018. This mega-fire killed 86 people and forced 20,000 others to flee across the United States, in a modern ecological diaspora which is no longer the privilege of the most vulnerable. I heard about Paradise a year later and departed immediately to meet some of the 2,000 souls who are rebuilding their paradise.
I decided to give a personal vision and reflect the collective hallucination of the hell lived by its inhabitants, forced to flee and leave their lives behind in less than two hours. I thought of walking the streets, between ruins of the symbols of our civilization – of which the United States is the sovereign example – and stretches of wild grass of a nature gradually regaining its rights. However, it takes a car as the town is large, and the feverish activity that reigns there in order to revive civilization is not unlike that of the gold diggers, who according to the legend, came to gamble at the Pair o’ Dice saloon, which the town is said to have initially been named after.
Over the course of the days, I patiently gathered the traces of a recent past to make a portrait of this place, and of those who seek the reassuring comfort of nature and chose to rebuild their (wooden) house there. I chose a color film process that has almost disappeared today in order to capture light beyond the visible, in the infrared spectrum, an allegory of our blindness to the signs of nature.
As we try to escape the hell of everyday life and pollution, looking for Eden on Earth in Paradise has a certain appeal. However, none of the majestic trees nor the 19,000 houses comfortably nestled under their thick shady branches, remain. The pioneers who embark on the (re)conquest of a devastated nature are aware of the risks of living in Paradise, which are becoming more and more tangible.