Local photographer showcases photo book recalling the Camp Fire

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Photo By Alex Coba

Douglas Keister showcasing his book “People, Places & Pieces of Paradise ” at the Chico History Museum.

One year and three months ago, Butte County experienced a disaster that caused an everlasting impression on thousands of lives. Local photographer and author, Douglas Keister, watched as the community he photographed for years, morphed into a gaunt carcass of his beloved home. 

Saturday morning at the Chico History Museum, Keister shared his book “People, 

Places and Pieces of Paradise” and the approach he took to represent not only the fire, but the aftermath and recovery as well. 

Keister knew he had to represent the community and validate their experiences through visual expressions. 

“I knew I had to do it. I couldn’t let something that was just ten miles up the hill go unnoticed,” Keister said. “It was impossible for me not to and I’d regret it if I didn’t. Everything that’s familiar is gone. Even when you go back to your place, it’s not the same. Nothing is familiar anymore, but you spent your whole life there,” Keister said.

He projected pictures of the slow development of clearing debris and the emptiness that laid in wake of the fire. Delving deeper into the lives and experiences of those affected, Keister began to realize that he was taking more than photos, he was encapsulating the experiences of a broken community.

“When you start interviewing people, whether you know them or not, it starts to sink in and you wonder what it would be like to wake up in the morning and have nothing,” Keister said.

The audience watched as pictures of their own neighborhoods displayed on the screen, knowing that they too had experienced the traumatic events he photographed. A board member for the Chico History Museum, Dave Nopel, felt similarly as he viewed the narrative of Keister’s photographs. 

“To pick up the pieces and begin to recover and rebuild, had brought a lot of questions…yet things still seem to move ahead,” Nopel said.

Keister offers a glimpse at hope and recovery to the people of Butte County through his theatrical photographs in “People, Places and Pieces of Paradise.” 

Keister’s book can be found at local Chico and Paradise locations including Paradise Ace Hardware, Bird in Hand, and Made in Chico. 

Melissa Joseph can be reached at [email protected] or @melisstweetz on Twitter.