Maxime Riché


Maxime Riché © Fabien Fourcaud

It’s a parable about our ability
to rebuild (ourselves) after the fires,
which are caused by humans. It suggests
our ever-greater estrangement from nature,

our arrogance in wanting to go against it,
whatever the cost.“

Maxime Riché

It’s November 8th, 2018 in Butte County, California, USA. Camp Fire, the deadliest fire in the history of this American state, destroyed more than 620 sq. km of forest and 13,500 homes over 18 days. The city of Paradise, nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, was utterly ravaged by the flames, which left 85 people dead and 4 missing from a population of 26,000.

Three years later, on July 13th 2021, the massive Dixie Fire tore through this same community. By the end of September when this fire was finally extinguished, it had caused the destruction of 1,300 homes, the death of a firefighter, and more than a billion dollars in material damages. 

Maxime Riché has returned again and again to the tragedy-stricken community of Butte and the Paradise area – a city whose name is a sad irony today. In this project, the French photographer bears witness less to the fires as such, and more to their aftermath. She shows us what happens when life continues - and it does, always, continue. 

Using infrared film, the images feature striking colours that recall the visual vocabulary of the blazing flames. Most importantly, she introduces us to the men and women who carry the fear of the next fire in their hearts as they face the task of rebuilding a Paradise brutally transformed into hell on earth. 

This exhibit offers a different perspective on the State of California where drought, caused by a combination of accelerating climate change and severe mismanagement of water resources, is causing forest fire season to come earlier and earlier. Fires are more frequent, larger and more dramatic. This phenomenon augurs what risks happening across the world: like the Dixie Fire, the Gironde fires in France ravaged the Dune du Pilat area in the summer of 2022. 

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