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Duke University Press
The Flint Hills of eastern Kansas give Schwarm his landscape subjects, and he likens the color-block compositions encouraged by their crisp horizon-lines to the spiritually glowing canvases of Mark Rothko. In this book, however, horizons are usually smeared by flame or blurred by smoke. Of course, if Schwarm has set his camera just right, one hill's crisp horizon surmounts another's bright crest. Really, his treatment of what many would think a monotonous subject is full of variety. Here are gray waves of burnt hills and yellow-crested waves of burning hills; rows of flame marching across the lower element of sky-ground compositions, and thin cyclones rising from advancing fires to shear upper elements in twain; clouds of flame-lit smoke rising and fogging the moon; and studies of flame, burning branches, and a sea of not whitecaps but yellowcaps. These pictures record intentional, controlled burning, which may contribute to their clear forms, and they are appropriately concluded by a single, greening image of "new grass about two weeks after burning." Exquisite. Ray Olson
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About the Author
Larry Schwarm’s photographs have been exhibited widely across the United States over the past ten years, both in solo and group shows. They have appeared in various publications, including An American Century of Photography:From Dry-Plate to Digital, Between Home and Heaven: Contemporary American Landscape Photography, Harper’s Magazine and Blind Spot. His work is in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Milwaukee Museum of Art,... read more
The Center for Documentary Studies/Honickman
First Book Prize in Photography
A startling, mesmerizing series of photographs of prairie fires, On Fire transports us from moments of almost apocalyptic splendor to the stillness of near abstraction. For over a decade Kansas-based photographer Larry Schwarm has been making extraordinary color photographs of the dramatic prairie fires that sweep across the vast grasslands of his native state each spring. Based on this stunning and extensive body of work, Schwarm was chosen from over 500 submission as the inaugural winner of the CDS/Honickman Foundation First Book Prize in Photography. With publication of On Fire, Duke University Press, in association with the Center for Documentary Studies and The Honickman Foundation, launches this major biennial book prize for American photographers.
Fire is an essential element of the ecosystem. Every spring, the expanses of tallgrass prairie in the Flint Hills of east-central Kansas undergo controlled burning. For photographer Larry Schwarm, documenting these fires has become a passion. He captures the essence of the fires and their distinct personalities—ranging from calm and lyrical to angry and raging. His photos allow us to see the redemptive power of fire and to remove ourselves from its tragic elements. Through Schwarm’s lens, the horizon takes on new meaning as we view the sublime, mystical, and sensual character of the burning landscape. Schwarm connects the enormous power and devastation of fire to what can only be identified as another kind of creation—the creation of beauty.
The Center for Documentary Studies/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography is open to American photographers who use their cameras for creative exploration, whether it be of places, people, or communities; of the natural or social world; of beauty at large or the lack of it; of objective or subjective realities.