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Under the Darkening Sky

Views from An American Roadtrip

We left California under a darkening sky. Traveling overland, somewhere around the million burning mirrors of Ivanpah, the smoke descended and it hounded us across the continent through Iowa and into Illinois. Finally, in Chicago, the sky went blue again. But we were already deranged. During a 6-hour detour around a burn-zone mudslide that closed I-70 through Glenwood Canyon in Colorado, we started writing “10 Tips for Vacationing in the West in the Age of Wildfire Complexes and Other Seminatural Disasters.” A funny idea. But the experiment lurched and buckled before it gained traction. Because behind the grim smiles our hearts were breaking.

These pictures were made over the span of two weeks in August 2021 during an overland relocation with my wife and 10-month-old son from California to New Jersey. During the trip, 5,239 wildfires were burning 1,904,506 acres across the western United States. Under the Darkening Sky chronicles the lands we passed through, and the smoke-filled skies that hung over them continuously for 2,000 miles, on the leg of our journey from Morro Bay, California to Chicago, Illinois.

This portfolio shows a small representative selection of photographs and text dispatches that constitute the full project.