Thursday, September 11, 2008

John McColgan - Bitterroot Fire

¤ You can see this incredible photograph by John McColgan many places on the Internet but I think that the E.M.S. Gallery is one of the best places probably to view it at for information on the picture. Note that there are direct links to a 406 KB-1756x1084 sized version of this image and an 84 KB-720x444 sized version of this picture on the gallery page.

I suggest going to this page, the bio page with information on the image and photographer and clicking on the links for the larger images rather than using the Gallery's page and using the links there. I found them a bit difficult for getting to the interesting information.

¤ I saw this picture first many years ago, when BC was having a lot of severe forest fires -- including some that were threatening cities of the interior of the province. At that time the photo was attributed -- in the posting I received -- to a fire in BC that Summer. However the actual photo was taken by John McColgan " the late afternoon of Sunday, August 6, from a bridge over the East Fork of the Bitterroot River just north of Sula, Montana."¹ The year, not given on the Public Safety Art Gallery quoted most on the net, is 2000. I do want to mention that the copyright date on the Public Safety Art Gallery page is 1996 -- however I suspect that is the copyright date for the whole site and not the content.

This image is a departure from what we have done for a couple of reasons. It is a photographic image and we do not do many of those, though we do consider photography to be a visual art. It also is not one image of a collection by an artist -- where we normally try to give one image in a collection so that our readers might go on to explore further the works of that artist. This image because it is posted so many places and is so powerful seemed to be one that fits in with our reviews. I want to mention that in smaller versions of the image and perhaps if the colour is not so good, what appears to be the shadow of a thumb on the right is merely darker vegetation. It only seems like a thumb shadow on some of the images online that I have seen.

I feel the picture is impressive for a number of reasons. One alone is the impressive shot of a wildfire from such an intimate point of view. The colours are like gold in some impossible gem of crystallized metallic gold. It also shows how entirely the fire can consume with it eating all that is within -- perhaps a bit at a time -- but nearly completely if given the chance. Considering the photo was taken late afternoon, it shows how the fire can turn day into night and provide its own illumination in place of the Sun's. All of this contrasts with the green vegetation still there by the river, and the elk seeking shelter in its waters. There is a contrast of power and peace. I find this image very powerful.

~ Darrell

¤  Words that come to mind when I look at the Bitterroot Fire are "beautiful destruction" "beautiful but deadly" and "psychopathic". It is hard to believe that fire can be both stunning and responsible for total annihilation at the same time, but this is exactly what this picture or photograph encapsulates. Is one supposed to be in awe of such a destructive force or does one find that totally abhorrent. I am in two minds -- my eyes are torn to two elk, stranded in this fiery path -- how did two delicate creatures find the fire's Achilles heal and survive. If they could talk they could have such a powerful story to tell about conquering over adversity.

~ Mags.

¹ "E.M.S. Gallerie: John McCogan" John McColgan BLM Alaska Fire Service

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