Commuters on BART, some wearing air masks.

Dystopian Photos of San Francisco Smothered by Smoke

For days, locals had to stay indoors or don air masks in an effort to avoid the harmful particles in the air.

Thanks to the wildfires that have devastated California for the better part of two weeks, the state's air has been filled with spectacular amounts of smoke. Particles of what was burned—forests, homes, cars, everything panicked evacuees had to leave behind—floated out many miles away from the sites of the fires, leaving a haze that fell heavily over much of Northern California (near the deadly Camp Fire) in particular. Schools were cancelled. Some people were able to stay home from their jobs, though many others, including farm workers, were forced to labor in the ash-filled air. And seemingly everywhere, people were wearing air masks, a phenomenon the Washington Post called the "latest sign of the apocalypse."


If this was the apocalypse, it was short-lived: By Wednesday morning, the air was clearing due to wind and incoming rain, good news for those who, like many homeless people, were unable to acquire masks. But with fire season seeming to get longer and more severe each year—an impossible-to-ignore consequence of climate change—the smoke is likely to come back sooner rather than later, meaning people in the Bay Area can't afford to throw out their air masks.

On Monday and Tuesday, the photographer Yalonda "Yoshi" James went out to document the strange, half-lit reality of San Francisco under the smoke. Her resulting photos capture how quickly a disaster can change the fabric of our lives, and how quickly we adapt.


All Photographs by Yalonda "Yoshi" James. You can follow her work here.