Five years ago, the Woolsey Fire became the largest wildfire in the history of Los Angeles County, consuming nearly 97,000 acres and leaving a trail of devastation in its wake.
A week after the flames were contained, I was offered a last minute opportunity to hitch a helicopter ride over the affected areas.
Armed only with my smartphone I was able to take a series of breathtaking aerial pictures. The scale of the destruction was sobering, and it provided the impetus for a project aimed at documenting the fire’s impact on our communities. I collaborated with others, including the team at Topanga New Times, to bring to light a multi-platform narrative that encompassed a printed publication, fundraising art shows, and a digital extension.
The stories I collected were from friends, acquaintances, and strangers. Each narrative was from a unique point of view, documenting not just loss but also the resilience and unity that emerged from this tragedy. The aim was not just to capture and grieve the loss but to facilitate a collective form of awareness and preparation for the future.
The making of the project also reminded me that humans often are at their best when faced with calamity. Suddenly social boundaries can dissolve, leading to unexpected forms of collaboration and empathy.
In documenting this chapter of our collective history it became evident that disasters don’t just expose vulnerabilities, they also shine a light on courage in the face of adversity. While the project serves as a time capsule of sorts, it also reminds us of the importance of emergency planning and preparedness.
The Woolsey Chronicles can be purchased for the cost of $10 for shipping and handling directly at email@example.com
The photos above and below were taken during the helicopter ride over the affected parts of the Woolsey burn and inspired the multimedia project of the Woolsey Chronicles.