In 2008, I moved back to my home state of California after living in New York for seven years. While happy to be closer to my home, and in an environment that held personal significance, several months after my return a sudden brush fire began near my hometown of Santa Barbara. My mother called to tell me that she was being evacuated and franticly asked me what she should take: “What can you not live without?” I told her to take the photographs and the important documents. She took a box of photographs and some artwork and left. This was not the first time she had seen clouds of smoke on the mountain’s ridge, so the evacuation seemed a precaution.
Several days later while watching the news at my college, I saw my childhood home engulfed in flames. Knowing I needed to be with my mother, I caught the first Greyhound bus going south. We waited for a few days before the fire had been contained enough for the evacuation order to lift. Knowing that our home was probably in ruins, I thought I was prepared for the scene. I was not. The destruction shocked me. My home was a pile of ash and charred wood, with remains that would be demolished later. It was not safe to enter the perimeter that was cordoned off by firefighters. Few objects were salvaged; all fit in a brown grocery bag. Amid the visual chaos there were so many reporters and photographers. They all wanted a picture of my sister and I⎯the cute, blonde twins amid the wreckage.
For this series of photographs, I blended self-portraits with photographs of my burned home. I sought to share both the devastation of the fire but also the vulnerability I felt being photographed.