The San Bernardino County Museum exhibits the work on Benoit Malphettes documenting the Blue Cut Fire of 2016
Every image embodies a way of seeing.
It is August 16, 2016. Temperatures were nearly at 100 degrees. Winds gusting at 30mph. A fire erupted along Cajon Boulevard between the San Bernardino and San Gabriel mountain ranges. The fire, which became known as the Blue Cut Fire, quickly tore its way through the Cajon Pass; ultimately, closing the major transportation route between Los Angeles and Las Vegas for two days.
Shortly after the Blue Cut fire destroyed over 37,000 acres in the Cajon pass, Paulette Brown-Hinds, publisher of Black Voice News, and Benoit Malphettes spent the afternoon taking pictures of the destruction. At the time of their visit, spots of trees on the ridge were still smoldering and wind-whipped ash filled the air.
Month after month he returned to the area again and again, in different weather…seasons…times of day. His pictures moved into translating the fury of the fire and the fear and devastation it left behind, to the promise of renewal as spring emerged. It may have started as an exercise in documentation, but it became something more. Through Benoit’s lens, as photographs are an interpretation of the world, then the charred Blue Cut landscape resembles abstract art.
Benoit Malphettes’ unique vision of the landscape, ruined by the Blue Cut fire, reminds us that beauty and art can be found in anything. And through his lens, we can all see nature’s own cycle of rejuvenation and the hope that comes after loss.