The recent bout of US weather extremes and renewed energy around climate action following Obama’s State of the Union Address reminded me of my experience in California a few years ago.
I was travelling north from Lone Pine in California’s High Sierra. Due to scrub fires the road was closed, stretches of tarmac were ablaze. The following day I chanced upon two bus loads of inmates from an L.A. penitentiary, they had just returned from the surrounding mountains having fought fires through the night. I singled this man out, more out of gut feeling than anything else, a Navaho; I liked his look. Jokingly he suggested he make an escape while I photographed him doing so to the amusement of his fellow inmates and a handful of guards who cheered him on as he ran around in circles. Eventually he tired, stopping, this look of defeat and desperation came across his face. Perhaps he realised there was no escape after all.
Across the globe, fires have been getting larger and stronger. In the past 20 years the area scorched by fire in the western U.S. was six times greater than in the two decades that preceded it. These infernos are in large part a result of longer drier summers which are only poised to get worse with climate change.
I am all too aware that in order to expand and strengthen my project on climate change portraits will pay an increasing roll in shaping my message. Indigenous peoples of our world are amongst the most affected. Whenever I view this image it inspires me to seek and capture many more engaging and telling portraits. The look of defeat in this man’s face provides for me a clarity of mind, a reason to keep doing what I do; questioning humanities roll in this world and our connection or for that matter, disconnection to everything we hold dear.