These remarkable photos of wild fires by David McNew are from In Focus by Alan Taylor in the Atlantic.
Once more, triple-digit summer temperatures and dry conditions are fueling wildfires across California. Getty photographer David McNew has been covering many of these fires for more than a decade, and has an eye for finding the visual beauty amid the horrible destruction and efforts to battle these blazes. Gathered here are some of McNew’s compelling photographs of Californian wildfires over the past decade.
As I have written before, I have serious reservations about the way art can valorize and glamorize human awfulness, especially in war photography. There are so many, many beautiful photos of war, devastation and poverty. I am very uncomfortable with the aesthetization of human misery
These images of fire don’t affect me that way. Somehow, because fire is a natural element and fires are among other things part of the natural ecology, I respond to the beauty of these photos without emotional reservations. The ones I’ve chosen do not involve people but are simply elemental fire. I chose Taylor’s simple photo information rather then more complete information that was embedded with the photos. The details of the complete information context these photos in a way that involves me in the destruction and its effects, which distances me from direct involvement in the beauty.
I think the photographs speak for themselves.
Large flames are blown from burning mobile homes by strong wind on November 15, 2008, in Sylmar, California
The landscape glows immediately after the main fire front swept over in a fast run toward Lake Hughes on June 1, 2013, south of Lake Hughes, California
The landscape glows immediately after the main fire front swept over in a fast run toward Lake Hughes on June 1, 2013 south of Lake Hughes, California