Evan Rensch: Into the Fire

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My photographic project, Into the Fire, profiles a small group of individuals who reside at the foot of Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes. Situated on the Big Island of Hawaii, Kilauea volcano has been continuously erupting since 1983, transforming a lush, tropical environment into a rocky, barren landscape. Threatened local residents perpetually face the danger of losing their land and homes to flowing lava. My series focuses upon a community—the tiny village of Kalapana—which has felt the violent impact of Kilauea over an extended period of time. In 1990, Kalapana was completely overtaken by incoming lava from Kilauea and the devastation forced the vast majority of residents to abandon the community. More recently, the area has begun to repopulate, driven by a group of newcomers who are attracted by the allure of inexpensive land, ocean views, and—perhaps contrary to common sense—the chaotic energy of nearby Kilauea. My photographs portray this eclectic group of new residents that chooses to live within the orbit of the volcano. Throughout the images, human subjects bear the trace of an austere landscape that is both alive and in perpetual flux. Time is seen to unfold at drastically different rates in this environment, where the primordial pulse of the volcano contrasts the more fleeting flow of human life. Ultimately, it is the cycle of life and death that holds the greatest sway. The photographs show that although volcanic eruptions are sites of violence in the short term, they serve more broadly as a reminder of the earth’s continued evolution. And for the human beings who call the volcano their home, Kilauea also provides the opportunity for them to begin their lives anew.


I am a Canadian photographer and visual artist based in Dawson City, Yukon. I began my studies in photography as an undergraduate art student at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick. More recently, in 2015, I was awarded a Master of Fine Arts degree from NSCAD University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Today, I live my life in a subarctic community, an experience that greatly informs my creative interests and identity. Since arriving in Dawson, I have been an active volunteer, employee, a member of the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture and the ODD Gallery, Canada’s northernmost artist-run centre. My photographic work has been featured in exhibitions throughout Canada and the United States. I am a recipient of visual arts grants from Arts New Brunswick, Arts Nova Scotia, the Yukon Department of Tourism and Culture as well as the Canada Council for the Arts. In 2018, my solo exhibition Into the Fire was selected as a Featured Exhibition in the CONTACT Photography Festival in Toronto, Ontario. My completed projects are based in documentary practice and are influenced by the histories of portraiture and landscape photography. Thematically, my work explores notions of place, memory, and labour, and their roles in the formation of human identity. My projects are social and collaborative in nature, and I am specifically drawn to photographing communities that exist outside the framework of contemporary urban society.


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