"FOLLOWING FIRE: A Resilient Forest / An Uncertain Future" is a long term inquiry by photographer David Paul Bayles and disturbance ecologist Frederick J Swanson. The collaboration combines David’s artistic sense of form and color and Fred’s scientific focus on the biological and physical processes shaping forest history and the forest’s future.
In September 2020, the Holiday Farm Fire, driven by fierce east winds, burned 173,000 acres along the forested McKenzie River canyon in the Cascade Range of Oregon. Two months later, David and Fred began a photography project to document the stark beauty of the burned forest and its vibrant response to fire. A fresh view of fire and forests emerged based on dozens of shared site visits. This project employs a variety of photographic approaches, including fine art, documentary, chronosequences (tracking change over time) and typologies (groups of images of single subjects), to highlight unique qualities of the blackened landscape.
They write, "Photographs and text weave a complex story of forest resilience in the face of growing challenges and uncertainties. Despite headlines describing the forest as “incinerated” and “vaporized,” vast amounts of carbon and nutrients were retained, allowing abundant plant life to spring forth over the first few growing seasons. This gives us hope. However, the future forest must contend with profound uncertainties: accelerating climate change, invasive species, other legacies of past land use, and on-going intensive forest management."