“Field Burns” is an ongoing photographic series that depicts both the power and beauty of the controlled burning of grass seed fields in the Willamette Valley in Oregon.
I first encountered this longheld farming practice when I moved to Stayton in 2003. One day while harvesting vegetables, I suddenly smelled smoke and looked up to see a massive black, grey and white plume of smoke no more than a quarter mile away. I was terrified, yet in short order I saw another at a distance, and then another, and then assumed I was witnessing something planned. I also knew I had to see these burning fields up close. I have been photographing these fields since 2008.
Even though I have always felt a strong affinity to the land, not until my stint as a farmer did I purposefully make art about nature, including landscapes. I now have an understanding of what it means to “do landscapes.” Whether carved out by human intervention or created by the splendor of natural processes, topography has form and function that we both feel compelled to control while readily moved by its beauty. “Field Burns” is at this intersection of utility and aesthetic.