On Fire

On Fire

Center for Documentary Studies/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography

More about this series

Book Pages: 128 Illustrations: 68 color photographs Published: December 2004

Author: Larry W. Schwarm

Contributor: Robert Adams

Art and Visual Culture > Photography

Inaugural Winner
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 submissions 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.

Published by Duke University Press in association with Lyndhurst Books of the Center for Documentary Studies

To view images from the book, please visit http://cds.aas.duke.edu/books/fire.html

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. Information and guidelines about the prize are available at http://cds.aas.duke.edu/grants


"[A] stunning collection . . ." — Dave Ranney , Lawrence Journal-World

"[S]tunning images. . . ." — Les Line , Audubon

"Among the most dramatic scenes in the American Midwest are the fires each fall as farmers burn off dried grasses in their fields. Few photographers have more potently captured the power of these blazes than Larry Schwarm." — Kyle MacMillan , Denver Post

"Its pages radiant with crackling sparks, searing flames, pinkish dawns, and indigo twilights, On Fire offers a captivating photo-documentary of the prairie fires that regularly surge across America's largest tall-grass prairie. . . . The power of Schwarm's work derives from the iconographic import of its subject--fire--and also from the abstract potential of each composition. The photos make a distant, largely visual experience more immediate, tactile, and in the case of the photos of smoke plumes, even olfactory." — , Library Journal

"Larry Schwarm's color photographs of fire gnawing at the prairie have a hellish glory." — Kenneth Baker, San Francisco Chronicle

"These pictures, all in color, are stunningly beautiful, displaying flames moving across vast open spaces of prairie, often as the sole link between earth and sky, photographed at day, night, and twilight, under blue skies, clouds, and the moon. . . . Schwarm's cogent afterward positions the fires as one of the four elements, along with earth, air and water, to underscore the mythic quality of the pictures and their subject. . . ." — John Pultz , Great Plains Quarterly

"Larry Schwarm’s photographs of fire on the prairie are so compelling that I cannot imagine any later photographer trying to do better. His pictures convince us that seemingly far away events are close by, relevant to any serious person’s life.
The photographer engages our attention first by heightening our amazement at the sensuality of fire. Most of us have enjoyed looking into a fireplace, but few of us have observed as well as he has the astonishing shapes and colors and fluidity of fire. He is so skilled in recording its appearance that occasionally we almost hear the burning and feel the warmth." — Robert Adams


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Price: $45.00

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

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, Beach Museum of Art (Manhattan, Kansas), and Spencer Museum of Art (Lawrence, Kansas), and is included in the PaineWebber Landscape Collection and Hallmark Photographic Collections. Larry Schwarm is Professor of Art at Emporia State University in Kansas, where he teaches photography.

Robert Adams is one of America’s preeminent landscape photographers. His work has been published, exhibited, and collected throughout the world. His books of photographs include From the Missouri West and Perfect Times, Perfect Places and his writings on photography are available in such books as Beauty in Photography and Why People Photograph.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Introduction by Robert Adams





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Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3208-4
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