Clover © Jesse Burke
"Wild and Precious" is a series of photographs by Jesse Burke, recently exhibited at ClampArt in New York, and collected into a book published by Daylight.
Efrem Zelony-Mindell reviews book and exhibition.
A forest is many parts - the landscape, the creatures, the trees, all the wonderful dirty little pieces. There are ways of learning in this atmosphere; the lessons to take away are exciting and unusual. This education is something that can't be found in a book, it lays behind bark and experience. To watch a child grow in this wilderness is uncertain, touching, exhilarating. Jesse Burke's Wild & Precious is a collection of photographs he took of his daughter, Clover, over the course of five years and many trips out into wilderness. Through these trips, we watch Clover grow.
Burke's work upholds the sentiment of something Anaïs Nin once wrote: "We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations." These lessons are the hope Burke has for Clover by taking her out into nature. It is also this hope that reads in his images of her. She sleeps, she searches, she collects and studies, she is hurt, she is strong, she is inquisitive, and in all the images she reads as totally respectful to the earth around her. Clover hungers for a kind of learning: she wants more.
The book is curated in a peculiar way. The photographs read more as a community than they do as a single sentence. They are lyrical and they penetrate. Black and white and color images coagulate - some big, others small. A narrative emerges and details entice, there's something tactile present in the surfaces of all the photos. It's hard to ignore this touch -maybe that's how Clover learns; maybe that's how anyone learns out in the wild. Feeling her way through she seems careful to leave only footprints.
"Oh, sweet child, I beg you to be wild, but stay precious," - caring words from a father to his daughter. The sentiment is beyond the bonds of blood. Burke has respect for his daughter; she is to come into her own. Clover will be a child, she will be a woman, and she will know how to be a person.
Text and edit by Efrem Zelony-Mindell.
All images © Jesse Burke and courtesy of ClampArt.
I do wish someone had taught me to not be afraid of spiders... - ed.