Thursday, September 26, 2019
"People, Places & Pieces Of Paradise: The Inferno, Aftermath & Recovery From The Most Destructive Wildfire In California History"
Chico writer-photographer Doug Keister showed up for his morning softball game on November 8, 2018, knowing something was amiss but not knowing the extent of the conflagration that was to come. Several of the players would lose their homes in the Camp Fire.
"In the weeks and months that followed," he writes in an extraordinary new book, "I journeyed to the fire zone of Paradise and nearby smaller communities of Concow and Magalia several times each week, doing my best to document the effects of the fire, on the land and on the people. I also made note of the residents of Butte County who had escaped the ravages of the fire. The generosity they gave--and continue to give--to the community and survivors, still inspires."
Keister has created stunning images that capture the soul of Paradise, from the burning to the aftermath, with stories of survivors telling of the human cost but also of the indomitable spirt of hope that is, indeed, part of the soul of the town.
"People, Places & Pieces Of Paradise: The Inferno, Aftermath & Recovery From The Most Destructive Wildfire In California History" ($29.95 in hardcover, self-published, from paradisebook.org; also available locally at Made in Chico and the Gold Nugget Depot Museum) contains almost 200 color images and 20,000 words.
Sections include "Ignition," "Aftermath," "Recovery," "The Murals" (a comprehensive guide to Shane Grammer's Paradise art), "Portraits From Paradise" (three dozen stories of individuals and families who survived), with a closing memorial dedicated to those who did not.
In the book, Keister writes about the power of the image. "Imagine returning after the fire, turning onto the street where your home once was and seeing…nothing. You feel your heart sinking and your eyes welling with tears. You are struck by the utter silence. No birds chirping. No chattering squirrels. No dogs barking. No squeals of children playing. Nothing is anywhere close to normal. Photographs will tell these stories, if you let them."
Those images are deeply moving (my first school, Paradise Elementary, has disappeared into memory).
The book itself is a treasure.