Schwarm has been interested in controlled agricultural burns since growing up on a farm in Kansas.
“There’s a lot more to fire than what it is,” Schwarm said. “It’s a love-hate relationship. It heats our homes, but also burns down our homes. I am interested in its beauty more than its devastation.”
Schwarm’s work will be on display at the “On Fire” exhibit through June 5 at the Wilson Special Collections Library in the Pleasants Family Assembly Room.
Wilson Library will host a free lecture tonight with Schwarm at 5:45 p.m., where he will talk more about the inspiration behind his photographs.
Schwarm prepares to photograph most of his fires in April, when the crown of the grass is more susceptible to burn.
Ranchers light the grass at night while Schwarm chases the flames as the smoke moves across the film, capturing the shapes and colors that it creates.
He said he finds realness in his photos because it is not something someone has to pose for.
“In a way, it’s more of a painting than photography,” he said. “It’s an emotional experience, and it’s more real, which to me is more spiritual than imagination.”
Ann Stewart, curator of the exhibition, said she met Schwarm through the Duke Center for Documentary Studies, where Schwarm was the Honickman First Book Prize winner in photography in 2002 for his book “On Fire.”
“It’s not just about re-birth and destruction,” she said. “Different meanings come out in different pictures.”
Director of Library Development Peggy Myers said she worked with local arts representatives to acquire the photographs for the exhibit.
Myers said she hopes people will come listen to the lecture because it is the last opportunity to see the exhibition and understand Schwarm’s inspiration.
“It’s wonderful,” she said. “It’s dramatic and shows events that go on in Kansas every year in the cycle of nature. It is beautiful in colors and composition.”
Contact the desk editor at email@example.com.