In case you missed the opening night during First Friday #FF on Roosevelt in Downtown Phoenix, you need not to fret. There is still PLENTY of opportunity to come down and see my work titled, “Desolation” a photographically telling the story of the aftermath of the Yarnell fire. My work is located in the Bokeh Gallery which is inside of the MonOrchid Gallery located at 214 E Roosevelt in downtown Phoenix. The Gallery is open every day from 7am-5pm. Your next chance to meet and talk to the artist herself is on Third Friday, January 17th, 2014 from 6pm-10pm. (Artist, me, is largely pregnant and leaves sometime around 9pm). You may email me questions, thoughts, concerns at email@example.com.
Between meeting so many buyers, critics, art goers, and bloggers last night I was asked so many questions, and I’d like to answer some of those now, with a list of the top questions I was asked last night at the gallery, and a little bit about the images I chose to print, why I chose those images verses other images, along with my thoughts, emotions, and process behind the images on print. All images are for sale at $75 regardless of size due to content, and may be purchased through Justin Germain at the MonOrchid Gallery; as well as the images inside the digital frame are for sale, and will be printed upon receipt of payment (You may chose the size, from 4×6-8×10, some exceptions can and will be made). The Digital images and digital frame themselves are not for sale. There is an artist statement with a QR code there where you can scan it and look at the images on your own time and chose which image/s you’d like to have printed. Make sure you contact Justin once you’ve made your selections. *Copyrights remain with Photographer/Artist April Morganroth. **Some restrictions apply, see gallery for details. ***Portion of my proceeds is going to the Granite Mountain Hotshots families. I’ll talk about that at the end of this blog and why I chose to donate rather than profit.
First I’d like to talk about the images, at the show you will find a price list, that list all of the images, their names, and prices.
In order on the wall starting with the East Most Wall/Cove:
1) “U-Turn”: This is the destruction you can see standing on the main road. If you look closely you will see that the fire made several “U-turns” here. There are small patches here and there untouched, however mostly it is all gone. The fire completely destroyed many structures in this particular area, and yet left ONE lone house right on the edge, on the main street untouched. I felt this image was compelling to really drive into the minds of the on lookers just how random this fire burnt. There was absolutely no rhyme or reason to it’s destruction path. Sadly this was a common scene in and around Yarnell itself. You could see all houses gone except one lone house in the middle, or all houses standing except one lone house in the middle. The fire seemed to skip along as it pleased, almost like a antsy toddler running through their toys and knocking down anything in their path.
2) “Spent Out”: I think it’s my work as a Portrait and Wedding photographer, that draws me into these small intricate detail shots that most seem to walk right by; which a majority of what my #Yarnellfire and #Prescott19 images are compromised off. To explain that better, a bride has done so much planning, and so much hard work getting her wedding to come together for her big day, that it goes by SO fast, she doesn’t get any chance to enjoy the small details in her wedding. The ONLY way she will ever get to enjoy and appreciate these small details is by the detail shots of her wedding photography. More and more brides want to remember the small details along side the big moments and the obvious shots. I’ve worked hard at making sure to have plenty of small details from things like her makeup on the counter and lined up, make up she particularity picked out for her wedding day and may never wear again, to the smallest details in the shoes or guarder. I myself am drawn to obscure and detailed shots, so often I find myself with a magnitude of details. “Spent Out” is one of those detailed shots. At first glance we are not sure what it is, because there are no other telling signs of what it might be, everything around it is burnt black; covered in ash and shoot. Upon closer examination you can see that the motor inside is completely chard and gone, and the blades have long vanished. You start to notice the notches, and where the pins should be; then it hits you. It’s the casting outer portion of a ceiling fan! Something many Arizonians will tell you is a MUST have; including myself, when we bought our new home we made sure that each room had a ceiling fan.
3) “Mourning Blazes Over the Hill”: This is an image of the tragic day that stole 19 of our bravest heroes from us. This is down the Yarnell Mountain in the early morning hours. As you can see the sun has just barely Begun to come up behind us (to the East) and that “light show” you see peeking it’s nasty little head up over the mountain there is the fire that blazes on. The fire that stole our heroes; tragically that’s nearly close to being exactly where the men would perish on the other side. When I pulled up, I could not even believe that I could see the fire peeking up and over. It was a thick horrifying sense in the air as soot made it’s way down and filled my lungs standing there capturing this image. I was mesmerized and terrified of it all at the same time. Shortly after this shot all media and non essential fire safety personnel were asked to leave, the fire had seemed to have gotten out of control. You could feel the tension and panic among the sheriffs trying to push us down the mountain and get out of there; they never showed it, but you could feel it. This was the eye of the storm.
4) “Treading On”: Again this is one of those detail shots, except with a slight twist, you stare and you stare at it, then you realize you’re looking at a treadmill. Yes, one of those big bulky hard to move treadmills. Everything in this particular home was gone, except this treadmill half standing. It spoke to me, I don’t know what exactly it said to me, but it seemed to draw me in and close to it. Stove gone, refrigerator gone, hot water heater no where to be found, bed a curled up, shriveled piled of coiled spring mess, and yet, here stood the treadmill. What was it saying? Why was I so drawn to it? Later I realized why I was captivated by this treadmill after staring at the image for what felt like for days; it’s a luxury item. An item many take for granted, many shuffle from one room to the next in hopes of maybe one day actually putting it to use. It’s an item in the house we may use for a coat rack, or to block off certain parts of the house from children wondering through. Nearly every other recognizable item gone made into ashes, and yet here stood this partially erected treadmill. After speaking to many residents and getting their stories, I realized this treadmill meant that although all is gone, hope is not. The common phrase was, “We will tread on and work through this….” (See my story on my photojournalist page for more about that story: April Morganroth Photojournalist: Yarnell Rebuilds a Story of Hope)
5) “Hells Kitchen”: Seeing what used to be a kitchen with this lone chair partially standing I was completely taken back as to what the fire completely took and what it had not. The stove, dishwasher, and what was left of the fridge was nearly extinct compared to this chair, and I couldn’t really comprehend why all of the heavy metal appliances and not this wooden chair? It honestly felt like it was waiting for the homeowner to come back and take a seat to look at what was left. Very saddening, and I had to take a knee after this image, just to catch my breathe. If you look at the way the light is casting in this image you see and feel the sense of hope, again a reoccurring theme among the residents. Hope seems to be the theme within Yarnell, and among the Granite Mountain Hotshot families, hope that this never happens again, hope for closure, hope for one another; Hope. Out of the ashes it will rise.
6) “Almost Tough Enough”: We all see them, the old metal tried and true never say die pick up trucks; in fact most of us have one, or at least one in our family. We ourselves own one, our good old American, tried and true 1998 Chevy Silverado pick up truck. They are the sign of dependability, the sign of good workmanship, the sign of American pride. This image is of an old Chevy truck, with all of it’s glory and all of it’s heart it’s standing tried and true, even in it’s dilapidated state. It was nearly tough enough to withstand the consumption of the blazes. This truck was found in the middle of Yarnell, in the middle of where most of the fire damage to structures had been done. Seeing this truck in this state made me sad, it angered me, yet it gave me hope all at the same time. I was sad to see such a beast of a truck in this state, knowing exactly what my husband and I have put our poor old truck through, yet I was angry that the fire attempted to destroy our vision of “Tried and True”; yet hopeful, because it was still partially there, enough was left for savaging. Which again, was the sense and theme among Yarnell. Strength to rebuild, strength to go on, strength to pick up the pieces and put them back together. After all, this is the “American way”, everything this Chevy pick up truck stood for.
7)”Ultimate Sacrifice”: I must have taken nearly 100 frames of this one spot, this one subject. I wanted it to be peaceful full of hope, the stories and sense I got from the Yarnell residents alongside the Prescott 19 Families. I wanted it to be respectful, yet tell/show the entire story. I played around with the composition for what seemed like days while standing there. The short dept of field gave me what I was seeking. The blurred out background of the fenced area is where the men perished. The foreground is the hope, is them standing guard over this mountain. It’s a tribute, to the men, and their ultimate sacrifice to keep this city safe, where no civilian life had been lost. You can feel the pain and the lost in the background but also feel the hope and the rebuilding in the foreground; along with the love and dedication. You can see the cactus, an iconic site in Arizona, shriveled, cracked, dead, with the ash and shoot covered cove in the mountain there. However the focus, is the shirt, is remembering that these men were heroes not just to their families, and community of Prescott, but now to the world. Let their death no be in vain, let us remember they saved every single person in Yarnell. They gave selflessly, and wholeheartedly, they made sure that the residents went home safely to their loved ones. They, their fight, their hearts gave Yarnell hope to carry on.
8) “Real Men Weep for their Heroes”: This image really struck the deepest part of my soul. I was shaking and crying the entire memorial service, I wasn’t even sure that I was getting the shots, because of how shaky I was. Then when I saw this image on my computer, I cried all over again. If you have a big burly man in your life, you know they seldom cry, and if they do, they sure don’t let you see it. I personally have only seen my husband cry three times in our life, the birth of our children and our wedding day. To see grown men cry just breaks your heart. You could literally feel the love, adoration and complete loss these men and their families were feeling and you felt completely helpless. You wanted to help, but you couldn’t. This really gives humanity to our heroes. They came home to friends, wives, children, girlfriends, and each other after every fire, they successfully put out the Doce Fire not too long before this, so to see these men collapsing with pain, confusion and anger, really made you take a deep breathe and count your blessings. The pain in that room, at that moment was felt among every heart that was there. This was the one and only place where it felt nearly hope-less, how do you comprehend such a devastating lost? How do you recover from such a devastating lost? How DO you recover from such a devastating lost? One could only hope to, that was simply it at that moment, hope to recover; hope to hope.
9) “Composite of ground Zero- 19 Remembered + 1 Survivor”: This is a composite I did. I wanted you to be able to see the flag pole, the 19 heroes arm band, the shoot and ash covered mountainside, the flag, and the plaque laying near it. No matter what I did to compose this shot I was never happy with it. So I made this composite. At the site I had this sickening and overwhelming sense to cry, and I couldn’t completely stop. I knelled down at the base and prayed. I remember thinking that this was so surreal, to my left and to my right I could see patches of greenery, where the men could have raced to, I could see the ranch they were trying so desperately to make it to, and yet, it felt like a trap. In my heart, something just didn’t go terribly wrong, something tore these men away from their community and loved ones. There, you could feel the presence of the men, as if they stood guard over that spot, and I have a deep appreciated feeling that they will forever protect and serve. May they always be the whisper in the wind during feature fires.
10) “The Hill That Came Alive”: This is the 19 honor band that was placed around the flag pole that APS had put out there as a memorial to these fine men. This is the view looking out towards the mountain side of the backside of Yarnell; and behind me (not in the image) is where the men took their last stand. This is where they were fighting the fire. I wanted to capture an image that honored the men, and what they worked so hard at accomplishing. I wanted to show just how vast this area was and how horrific this fire was. Upon getting to the site it was hard to keep composed, and in fact I couldn’t help but to cry. I couldn’t help but to feel the lost and sadness. This is where I got to talk to some of the other family members and friends of the Hot Shots. Amongst the pain, and horror of this area, it was unsuspectingly peaceful. It was a place to come and remember the men, to honor them, and to pay respect to them, their fight, and their sacrifice.
11) “To Peddle Backwards”: It was so uncanny to see this bike completely burnt, yet still standing. Everything else around it was completely burned to ashes, all you saw were a few scraps of metal here or there, but mostly it was a pile of ash, and shoot. I looked across to the street behind this house, and it was untouched, yet this house and his two neighbors completely gone. This was in the middle of most of the destruction, and I couldn’t comprehend what had kept this bike standing upright, as if it were ready to take off. Reminds me that we will be strong and true, even amongst this terrible tragedy.
12) Digital Frame with 300 images. This is where you can see the bulk of the images.
13) “Flashes of Red Defender”: This detail shot of this burnt tree wouldn’t be nearly impactful if it were not for the red slurry that the planes and helicopters dropped all over Yarnell to help fight the fire and keep it at arms length. This image tears up my heart, because the tree is burnt, it’s gone, dead, even with the red slurry on it. This was a common scene all over Yarnell. You could see the red slurry strewn across the mountainside, valley areas, and structural areas, and yet, the fire didn’t seem to stop, it kept going. This tells you exactly how the fire had made up it’s own mind, and went where it pleased, taking as it pleased. Nothing in it’s path was safe. It really gave the sense that if the fire wanted it, it took it, without regards to anyone or anything.
14) “Our Deepest Thanks”: I was so surprised to see these memorials up ALL over town. They were erected by residents who still had homes standing, businesses standing, and some by those who had lost it all. The overwhelming out pour of love to these men was undeniable. The heart felt appreciation of this town was undeniable. The memorials all over town further lead you to feel the hope, that was felt throughout. Yarnell wont let the lost go un-noted nor will they forget. The 19 men gave them hope.
15) “What They Leave Behind, Two Cities in Ruins; Forever Entwined”: The delicate touches of all 19 ribbons lining the fence really took my heart for a leap. It seemed so close, yet so far away at the same time. To see a field completely untouched from the fire, and then have the Yarnell Hill in ashes behind it gave you the sense that this fire had no rhyme or reason and took as it pleased, when it pleased, and how it pleased. Our heroes will always stand guard over this hill, and hopefully be the whisper in the wind to prevent future tragedies.
16) “Our Hometown Heroes”: Since the public has not been allowed to the site, to pay their honor and respect, many set out to the Fire Station that the men were stationed out of in Prescott, Arizona. They really were hometown heroes, and they are now world wide heroes. This image is that memorial outside of the station. Where many came and placed flowers, cards, notes, memorabilia, etc. The most heart wrenching items were letters from young children honoring these men. this made the lost of the men real to many. This was one public place that people could come to honor, the men, and come together as a community. This is also where hope began to spring up. Where re-building started to be cultivated. This memorial moved me to tears; tears of frustration, tears of heartbreak, tears of hope and tears of gratitude. These men are truly loved and greatly missed. They saved so many lives during their career as Granite Mountain Hotshots. They saved my aunt and her home during the Doce fire. They saved landmarks, homes, people, animals, and businesses. Their sacrifice will never be forgotten, it’s ingrained into every heart across this nation. They are everyone’s Heroes.
“Photographs can tell a thousand different stories of life’s intricate moments and all the while be open to many interpretations. My photography is expressive, capturing those secret moments in life, I call them the between moments.” -April Morganroth
The next blog post will include the list of most common questions I was asked during the opening of the “Desolation” show at MonOrchid Gallery inside the Bokeh Gallery during First Friday #FF.