The megafire Camp Fire devastated Paradise, a town of 25,000 on the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in California, on November 8, 2018. Most expensive disaster of the year in destroyed assets, it covered 620.5 square miles, killed 86 people and destroyed 18,000 structures in four hours, while driving 20,000 residents to relocate across the United States. It ranks at the very top of the fires that affect California every year.
I initiated “Paradise” as a study of our ability to adapt to environmental challenges. I am focusing in particular on the changes in our living spaces imposed by these new environmental conditions and aim to understand the motives of those who are rebuilding their “paradise” there. In order to distance myself from straight documentary photography and account for the intensity of emotion that I heard in my conversations with the survivors of Camp Fire, I confront the portraits from these encounters with a personal vision of the fire. The blazing colours of an infrared film give me the freedom to reinterpret our relationship to this element, whose power has forever at the same time lifted us up and terrified us.
This medium also reveals more of the photographed surface than that which is readily visible to the eye, further putting into question our ability to dominate nature. For a town named with such symbolism, this work invites us to consider the original meaning of the word apocalyptic: acting as a warning, the tale of Paradise gives us a glimpse at the next place, Australia, Brazil, Siberia, or elsewhere that will have to go through this healing after a disaster whose causes are, increasingly, human. It suggests our ever greater disconnect from nature, our hubris, our overconfidence, of wanting to go against her at all costs.
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