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The Sonoma Fire Aftermath

In October last year, fires raged through bucolic Sonoma County for 22 days.

Along with thousands of others, I was evacuated from my home during a

firestorm that ultimately killed 43 people, destroyed 4,658 homes, scorched

36,807 acres, and will cost more than $1 billion. 

Over the past five months, I have been taking photographs, meeting people

as they sorted through the rubble that once was their home. The vacant eyes, the

leveled neighborhoods, the stench of smoke — this truth is my impetus to

document the shattered lives, wasted resources, and ultimately global climate


The lucky were awaken in the small hours of the morning by sharp knocks on

the door. Most left in their pajamas with only a car key. On one of my photo

visits, I met Carol standing near a pile of ashes that had been the house where

she was raised. Her family, four generations, had been planning to spend the

holidays there, raise a Christmas tree, and celebrate. She asked whether I

would photograph them together. These are the sorts of stories my

photographs tell.

Without reason or fairness, homes were ravaged, often with one house along

an entire block spared. Throughout the burned-out neighborhoods, I

discovered small archeological finds: a thimble, a broken figurine, a wedding

ring —the remains of a person’s life. I am interested in the way survivors

make sense of the calamity, how they put their lives back together.

Spring has come too early this year. Something is changing on a profound

level, and I am frightened. Animals have lost their habitats. Bird migration is

out of tune. So many have been displaced.  It will take courage to rise.


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