Third Thursday, 7 pm, Mar 21: Jill Metcoff, Firelines

Jill at work, by Jill Metcolf. All rights reserved.

Jill at work, by Jill Metcolf. All rights reserved.

Jill Metcoff will discuss her 2017 book Firelines. A book signing follows.

Jill was an early member of PhotoMidwest (then known as the Center for Photography at Madison) and now lives in the Spring Green area. In addition to Firelines Jill published Along the Wisconsin Riverway in 1997.

Firelines presents the transformation and regeneration of the American landscape by fire. How to describe fire and its aftermath? Mysterious, menacing, beautiful, fairy-like, an inferno and more. Photographing controlled burns of prairie, forest and wetland, I watch smoke and fire dance through the landscape, and record the moment. I pay attention to the constant flux, second by second, so that no picture is identical. This approach to constant change frees us, — you and me --, taking us away from our daily glances at familiar landscapes and transporting us into a fragile, unknown world that happens only once. Then photography for me becomes meditation.

I work alongside well-trained burn teams, where I am at little risk. Most of my time is spent simply being on site, looking hard, observing the lines that smoke and fire will follow. I restrict myself to black and white film and a large-format camera that only takes four shots before reloading. This way I slow myself down, a practice which requires concentrated focus. Lack of color further directs attention to changing light, line, and forms in order to make images of ephemeral landscapes.

Building Firelines required editing 15 years of work down to 90 photographs, writing two essays, and then researching historic, conservation-related, and literary quotes to accompany the images. Working with the University of New Mexico Press involved negotiations on everything from the cover to the book’s size, paper types, font color, etc. Developing my layout, then refining it with UNMP was another step. Finally I went to China to supervise the printing, a fascinating and demanding process, that turned out to be necessary to arrive at what I wanted.

Copies of Firelines will be available for purchase and signing after the presentation. Her website is jillmetcoff.com/portfolio.