Jesse Burke: Wild & Precious
There are so many things I want to teach you. I want you to know which leaves belong to which trees, what the bumps of a toad feel like, the sweet smell and taste of honeysuckles. I want you to trust the night air, to not be afraid of spiders, to know things that I don’t, things I was never taught. I want you to feel at home in the world. – Jesse Burke
Jesse Burke is so much more than a celebrated photographer–he is a husband, father, storyteller, and champion of the natural world. His new monograph, Wild & Precious, published by Daylight Books, elevates his five-year personal narrative of fatherhood to a poetic collection of small stories that reveal the complexity and fragility of childhood and the importance of a relationship with nature. The book is accompanied by an essay by Karen Irvine, Curator and associate director of the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago, an essay by Ben Hewitt, author of Home Grown: Adventures in Parenting off the Beaten Path, Unschooling, and Reconnecting with the Natural World, a poem by Dallas Clayton, and letters by Jesse and Clover Burke.
Jesse also currently has an exhibition of this work at Clampart Gallery in New York, that runs through November 12, 2015.
Jesse Burke divides his time between personal art projects and commissioned work. A New England native, he currently lives in Rhode Island with his wife and their three daughters, Clover Lee, Poppy Dee, and Honey Bee. He received his MFA from Rhode Island School of Design, where he is a faculty member, and his BFA from the University or Arizona. Jesse’s work deals with themes related to vulnerability and identity, as well as human’s complicated relationship with nature. His work has been exhibited in galleries and museums in the U.S. and abroad including The Haggerty Museum, the Perth Center for Photography, the Tucson Museum of Art, the Print Center in Philadelphia and the Lishui Photo Festival in China and is held in many private and public collections including the Museum of Contemporary Photography Chicago; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the North Carolina Museum of Art; and the Rhode Island School of Design Museum. Jesse was recently named one of Time Magazine’s top 50 US photographers to follow on Instagram. Jesse is a member of Childhood Unplugged, a cooperative group of photographers who are making a conscious effort to encourage children to get back to the art of play. Burke is represented by ClampArt in NYC and Platform Gallery on the west coast, and commerically by i2i Photography.
The Wild & Precious works bring together treasures from a series of road trips traveled over five years with my daughter Clover to explore the natural world. To encourage a connection between my child and nature, I used these adventures to give her an education that I considers essential—one that develops appreciation, respect, conservation, and self-confidence. Together we studied beaches, land, sky, and animals. While on the road, we documented the routes we drove, the landscapes we discovered, the creatures we encountered, even the roadside motels where we slept. This book is as much about love and parenting as it is a hands-on training manual of new age environmentalism. Wild & Precious reveals the fragile, complicated relationship that humans share with nature and serves as a call to arms for parents and children everywhere: Get outside! Bookended by poetic letters we wrote to one another, Wild & Precious is a modern-day love story between parent and child, natural world and society. I want my children to genuinely understand how magical the world we inhabit is and how we, as humans, are an integral part of the system. I want them to feel a deep connection to every aspect of their surroundings.
Each image title in the Wild & Precious series is named after a song that Johnny Cash wrote or recorded. His music and lyrics were a big part of our collective experience while on the road.
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