A photo of a bride and groom wearing protective masks at their destination wedding in wine country has gone viral after the massive Kincade fire forced guests to evacuate.
The image of newlyweds Katie and Curtis Ferland shows them standing outside at their Chateau St Jean winery wedding in Sonoma county, not far from the massive wildfire that has burned more than 75,000 acres and destroyed 123 structures.
The couple from Chicago had been planning the wedding for a year, and their 80 guests had mostly traveled from out of state for the ceremony, the photographer Karna Roa told the Guardian.
The fires forced some guests to evacuate from their Airbnb rentals, and the air quality got so bad that many of the wedding events had to be moved indoors. But the wedding ultimately went forward, and the couple held the actual ceremony outside despite the hazards.
While taking a few photos in the vineyard, the couple thought they might as well capture some images with the protective masks, which people across the region have been wearing due to the toxic air.
“I looked at them and I thought, is this the new normal for wine country in October?” said Roa, who lives in Castro Valley, south of Sonoma county and regularly shoots wine country weddings. The moment the couple put the masks on, it reminded Roa of the famous American Gothic 1930 painting, she said.
This is Roa’s fourth wedding in the last three years that has been evacuated or disrupted by wildfires. The 43-year-old’s parents, who live in nearby Sebastopol, were evacuated as the Kincade fire spread and are now staying at her Castro Valley home, which has no power due to the Pacific Gas & Electric shutoffs.
Roa said the wedding was ultimately a success but that it was a surreal experience to go through it while the fires were raging in the region: “The joy won out, it was a happy wedding … But all of us were caught in that dichotomy of joy and sorrow. As a photographer, it’s easy for me to get lost in the moment and feel the joy of the couple.”
She said she hoped the viral image would help people outside of California understand the suffering in the region: “It’s helping to bring light to the crisis and destruction going on here.”
“There are people who are still having major life events, and it’s happening right in the middle of a firestorm,” she added.