Art Opening: Porter Creek - A Portrait of Home | Osher Marin Jewish Community Center

Art Opening: Porter Creek - A Portrait of Home

Thu, April 11, 2019 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

Camp Newman

The Osher Marin JCC is proud to host Porter Creek: A Portrait of Home. This is a photographic exhibit that seeks to tell the story of the destruction, loss, renewal, and hope of Camp Newman, the beloved local institution whose Santa Rosa location was destroyed in the Tubbs Fire. The exhibit is divided into two parts.  The first is a set of prints that document the initial damage and subsequent regrowth of the land. The second is a series of prints selected from the hundreds made on the grounds of the charred library.  

“I looked down and realized I was standing on the remains of all of our books.  Light, thin pages that turned to dust when touched.  Powdery, burned, books.  Some Hebrew jumped from the pages, but it was so light, basically gone.  Every step was utter destruction.  I spent a good amount of time wandering, photographing the sea of books, a river of books.  Some holy, many mundane, many unread, some over-loved, some molded, some duplicates, some unique.  They were untouched since the fire, standing delicately upright until my hiking boots crushed their feathery thin pages.” 

The exhibit and photographs were conceived of and created by Lily Gottlieb, artist and the Regional Advisor, NFTY Southern California, in direct response to the devastation of the Tubbs Fire. Elements of the exhibit were first presented to Camp Newman staff and campers as a way of allowing the community to grapple with the trauma of the fire, and as a tool for the teens to learn about their capacity for resilience. This is the first public exhibition of these images. 

“The star hike was totally burnt out.  You can see in photographs how trees that lined the path were charred, some completely burnt to ash. It was a scary hike; I was physically prepared but had to move slow.  I was disoriented by an experience I had done so many times, overcome by the perspective I saw of the star: big and right in front of me that had never been seen before because the trees had covered it up.” 


“When we got to camp, it was quiet.  There was an Autumnal peace in the air.  It felt like the first Fall Camp I worked, the first time I saw my new friends and old loves after that first summer on staff.  It somehow felt wet, and cold.  But it wasn’t that time and everything was different.” — Lily Gottlieb

Gallery, Kurland, Atrium


I arrived at Camp Newman ten days after it had been destroyed by the Tubbs Fire. Suited up in hiking boots and an N95 particulate respirator mask, I waded through a sea of debris.  Disoriented by the alien geography of a place I had once mapped for others, I found myself standing on the ashes of hundreds of burned books. I started shooting photos, even though each step I took further destroyed the pages beneath my feet.  The week after I made these photographs, a rainstorm washed the pages away.

My desire to document the destruction was rooted in the anticipation of our constituents’ needs. Because the community craved information, I produced a gallery show as part of our re-envisioned summer camp experience at a local college campus, hoping to present a picture of what still remained as we moved into the harsh realities that accompany the next phase of our life as a community “risen from ashes.”  

The show was a therapeutic experience, but I was also interested in addressing the uncomfortable truth that the place our teens call home will not be accessible to them again for years.  The news media calls our community a phoenix, capable of magical regrowth, but I seek to tell a more difficult story.

I spent most of the opening evening watching teens comfort each other as they found the remains of locations they recognized. I listened as they grappled with study questions that included discussion about photography in relation to memory; the broader perspective of the loss of life and homes in the Tubbs Fire, and the fire’s significance in debates about climate change. One staff member recounted, “In that room, regardless of what social circle you were a part of, everyone was leaning on each other’s shoulders.”