The global award in photography and sustainability

Mark Ruwedel

Los Angeles and Fire

Los Angeles enfolds wild terrain in a complex fashion; it is a place where natural history and social history can sometimes be read as inverted images of each other. (Mike Davis, “Ecology of Fear”).

Los Angeles may be the ultimate environment in which to study the dynamics of the nature/culture dialectic, possessing perhaps the largest wild/urban interface of any North American city. These photographs have been selected from my four-part, in-progress epic, “Los Angeles: Landscapes of Four Ecologies” (after Reyner Banham’s book on the architecture of Los Angeles). Briefly, the four ecologies are: 1). Rivers Run Through It; 2). The Slide Area (the Western edge); 3). Hills and Canyons, and 4). Haunted by the Desert (the Eastern edge). The emphasis is on landscapes where the collision of promise and reality is visible, and where the land and environmental forces act as active determinates in the history of the city.
Fire is a theme that runs through the project as a whole.

The Los Angles area has always burned. Fire is an integral part of the ecology of southern California. In recent years, however, the fires have increased in both frequency and intensity. The La Tuna fire, in 2017, was considered to be the largest in the history of the city. Each year is hotter and drier than the previous one, and the “Fire Season” is extended to encompass much of the year. Climate change, decades of fire suppression, and general human carelessness all contribute to the recurring conflagrations.

I would like for these photographs to function as both document and metaphor. As Robert Adams has said, “You want ghosts, and the daily news and prophecy”.

Mark Ruwedel