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December 06, 2019
Chariots of Firefighters
by Michael Heller
The Resplendent Demon
Compiled by Michael Heller
» On Fire
by Larry Schwarm
Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!
by Steve Spak
"Larry Schwarm's photographs of fire on the prairie are so compelling that I cannot imagine any later photographer trying to do better. His pictures convince us that seemingly far away events are close by, relevant to any serious person's life"
-- Robert Adams, from the Introduction
About the Book
911 Pictures is very proud to offer a fantastic new photography book by Larry Schwarm, winner of the Center for Documentary Studies/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography for his series of color images capturing the dramatic prairie fires that sweep across the Flint Hills of Kansas each spring. A professor of art at Emporia State University, Schwarm has spent the past twelve years photographing the burning of the tallgrass prairie in his native state.
"Photography has the remarkable power to impress into memory a distillation of a particular segment of time. The desire to hold memories of how a moment looks, smells, and feels, led me to become a photographer. Since ancient times, fire has been considered one of the four elements, along with earth, air, and water. Fire has a connection to our collective unconscious -- it is good and evil, soothing and terrifying, protective and threatening, a force for destruction and rebirth. Elijah was taken to heaven in a chariot of fire; Saint Anthony is sometimes depicted with his feet in flames from stamping out the devil. Fire heats our houses but can destroy our homes. And grass, too, in its many forms is fundamental to our being on this planet. Fire and grass -- how could I not be drawn to them? The North American tallgrass prairie once covered the eastern Great Plains, stretching from Texas to Canada and covering nearly 152 million acres. Agricultural and urban development have taken their toll, and today not even 1 percent of the original tallgrass prairie remains, with much of that broken into small, isolated parcels. My photographs are made on the largest remaining stand of the tallgrass prairie, the Flint Hills in east-central Kansas. Fire is essential to the prairie ecosystem. Without it, the prairie would have grown into scrub forest. Before human habitation, unbroken expanses of grasses as tall as eight-feet high would catch on fire and burn for hundreds of miles. Native Americans set fires to entice bison to the new grass that replaced the burned. European settlers adapted the practice and burned to encourage new growth for their cattle, as well as to kill invasive trees and weeds. What started as a natural phenomenon became an annual event controlled by people. The metaphor is obvious -- without destruction there is no rebirth; for every act there is an opposing one."
-- Larry Schwarm, from his Afterword
"On Fire" is available for $39.95 (plus $5.00 for S&H). You may order copies of the book through 911 Pictures -- we accept checks, MasterCard and VISA.
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