This intense and remarkable exhibit showcases the horrific conditions the firefighters had to endure in fighting the ravages of nature in the Colorado wildfires of 2012: the Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs and the High Park Fire near Fort Collins. This exhibit of blighted landscapes that highlights a savage beauty and portraits that illustrates consummate bravery runs through November 27, 2012.
Of all the natural disasters that occur—floods, earthquakes, and hurricanes–a wildfire is the one that commands human intervention. The other calamities are tended to after nature has completed the act; the fire needs to stopped by humans. While all emergency workers are extraordinarily brave, the firefighter has to possess a rare and singular trait: the ability to stare death in the face and do the job.
“Fire!Colorado Under Siege”at the Denver Photo Art Gallery benefits the Colorado Fallen Firefighters Foundation, which honors all firefighters who have lost their lives protecting the lives and property of the people of Colorado. The exhibit mixes pathos with hope; intense emotion is felt with each image. Forests and homes that have been annihilated are shown along with a small girl playing or horses that have made it to safety.
An aerial photograph, Massive Plume, was shot by John Wark during the Waldo Canyon Fire depicting towering clouds of smoke that dwarf Colorado Springs, masking the inferno that lurks on the ground. Imagine entering that hellfire, wearing clothes and equipment that would stifle in a cool environment. Even from the aerial view, one gets a sense of how quickly a firefighter needs to assess the situation and make a life-or-death decision.
AAron Ontiveroz, a Denver Post photographer and Emmy-winning videographer, shows his gift for capturing the beauty that exists amongst horror. Charlotte’s Airplane depicts a little girl silhouetted against a sumptuous golden sky; but the gold is not a lovely sunset, rather the absorption of fire into the atmosphere. Perhaps by observing the planes and helicopters spraying water and retardants on the High Park Fire, liitle Charlotte saw a positive symbol of what was transpiring around her.
A firefighter gives his point-of-view depicting the Waldo Canyon Fire through two striking images. One images which warms the heart is of three horses trotting down a gravel road, obviously safe. There must be a story in that photo: the owners probably set them free from their property, hoping they would find a safe haven. And they did, Steve “Smitty” Smith, a Fire Protection Engineer with the Colorado Springs Fire Department and a fire photographer, found them and photographed their journey to a good shelter. Another shot shows a lone helicopter’s flight path into the danger zone
Finally, there are the photographs of the firefighters taken by Richard Saxon. Actually, they are firefighters in training, or “probies”. The stunning black-and-white photographs detail the various phases of their training: entering a smoke-filled space, utilizing the high-powered hoses, and undergoing their rigorous training. One motif leaps from the images, their intense camaraderie and unparalleled dedication. At the exhibit there is a wonderful book by Saxon titled Probie. Check the link and then go to the gallery and buy the book as it part of the proceeds benefit the fallen firefighters. The accompanying video is footage shot by a Colorado Springs firefighter and in one scene he commends a young man who had helped save homes even before taking his oath of service to the fire department.
This exhibit will stay with you for many days. It is beautiful, dramatic, unbelievably sad, and very inspiring. To say it is thought-provoking is an understatement. Do visit the gallery and remember a portion of the proceeds from buying prints and the book support the fallen firefighters, the COFF, a tremendous cause.
Denver Photo Art Gallery
833 Santa fe Drive
Denver, CO 80204
Tuesday-Saturday 10:00 a.m. -6:00 p.m.
First Fridays–6-10 p.m.