The Sedona Arts Center is joining forces with the two Rotary Clubs of Sedona to host a juried photo exhibit called The Slide Fire Story: A Tribute to Oak Creek Canyon. Submissions are being sought, and anyone can participate. Photographs can be from Oak Creek before or after the fire, or of the fire itself. Video submissions are welcome, too. The deadline is Friday, June 20.
Below, David Simmer, professional photographer in Sedona and president of both the Sedona Arts Center and one of the participating rotary clubs, talks about the upcoming show, which opens July 10.
During the fire, the smoke that settled into Sedona was a constant reminder of the battle that was going on to contain the blaze and preserve Oak Creek Canyon. I’m a professional photographer, and I happen to be the incoming president of one of the local rotary clubs. I am also the president of the Sedona Arts Center. So, all of these pieces started fitting together for me. Rotarians are experienced to fundraise for local causes. And the arts center is always looking for opportunities to exhibit relevant art, and few places have more photographers than Sedona. The pieces all seemed to come together to have the local rotary clubs put together an exhibit of photography to be shown on the edge of the canyon at the arts center. I ended up floating the idea by a couple of trusted friends, and it just took off from there.
Can anyone contribute photos? What are you looking for in terms of submissions?
Yes, we welcome photos from anyone who has an image that relates to the impact of the fire. It could be an image showing residents of the canyon who were displaced from their homes, or animals that were likewise forced to flee, or a firefighter on break, or images that show the outpouring of appreciation of locals for the work of the firefighters to minimize the damage. We are looking for any images that reflect the impact of the fire. Amateur or professional, we don’t care. Actually, in this day and age, some of the best images are taken on cellphones because of the immediacy of the photograph. The images should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. That will allow us to easily communicate with the photographers and let them know what is going on. I should mention that we will be doing all the printing for the exhibit and will not be selling the images. We are only going to exhibit them, and we will be acknowledging the photographers whose images are selected.
Why are videos part of the project?
As we were working with our art director, Lynette Jennings, for the exhibit, she mentioned that she has seen some video of the plume of smoke rising over the canyon, and it made her wonder what other video might be out there. And when you think about it, we live in a world in which people commonly carry not only a camera, but also a video camera on them at all times in their smartphones. Lynette suggested that we ask not only for still images, but also for video. Who knows what people might have — that could be compelling footage of the early stages of the fire, or of the evacuation, or of locals bringing supplies to support the firefighters. That might really bring home the story of the fire and its impact.
What do you and your colleagues hope to accomplish with the exhibit?
There are a lot of intangible benefits from this event. We think it will be an opportunity for our community to come together to focus on what an important part of Sedona that Oak Creek Canyon is. We think it will also help us all to focus on the risk of fire and the need to be diligent and responsible when it comes to our actions and those of others. Beyond raising awareness, we would like to raise funds that will be used to mitigate the impact and that will help train firefighters who will be working across our state on these disasters. We will be splitting the proceeds from the event between the Slide Fire Disaster Response Fund of the Arizona Community Foundation and the Arizona Wildfire and Incident Management Academy, where all the firefighters train for these types of fires.
What has the mood been like in Sedona after the fire?
From my conversations, there is, of course, a general mood of relief and incredible appreciation that the Slide Fire has been extinguished. But there is also an undercurrent that this isn’t the last of it. This is a reminder that we are still at high risk for fires because of the drought. And there are concerns about what the fire might mean for potential flooding during the monsoon season.