Fire Ghosts (Hardcover)
An innovative way of seeing how a major forest recovers from a devastating fire.
In the summer of 2011, in the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico, a falling power line sparked a wildfire that burned 158,753 acres of forest. From their home in Santa Fe, thirty air miles southeast, photographers Patricia Galagan and Philip Metcalf watched what came to be known as the Las Conchas fire burn day and night for more than a month.
As soon as the roads reopened, they went to the mountains to see the damage this violent fire had wrought. Taking a trail to the rim of Cochiti Canyon, they passed through sections of forest that had burned so hot that nothing remained but blackened trunks and negative spaces where huge tree roots had been. The canyon and the waves of ridges beyond were black with standing dead trees.
The visual chaos of the burned forest, at first daunting, pushed them to look harder, to see differently. As they did so, the forest began to look beautiful in its highly altered state. For more than seven years they were compelled to make photographs of the aftermath of the fire to draw people beyond the news-cycle images of smoke and flames into the reality of a forest after an extreme fire. Forest Ghosts is both their ode to the old forest and their gift to help us understand that, in this era of accelerating climate change and increasingly devastating wildfires all over the American West, the new forests will never be the same, but we can still find beauty and enlightenment in the aftermath.