In this summertime showcase, photographer Jesse Burke shares his latest adventures with his daughters, the inspiration behind his ongoing work "Wild and Precious". Working with instant cameras and the Neptune Lens System, sharing why these worked in his photographic quest and fascination with nature.
Hey Jesse! Welcome back to the Lomography Magazine. Since we last spoke (last summer), what have you been up to? Any new projects or exciting things to share?
Hey there. I've been busy shooting a bunch of personal and commercial projects. I'm always hammering away at creating artworks, which recently has largely lived in the Wild & Precious vein. Being a dad to my three daughters continues to drive my creative processes these days. We have been traveling and shooting all sorts of images that explore the "magic of the natural world." We've also been experimenting with different media and applications that can be applied to our photographs. We made some glitter paintings altogether and have made some videos as well. It's really important to me that the girls have a hand in making the works. I was lucky enough to shoot a few amazing commercial projects that had to do with fatherhood. We shot a Wild & Precious inspired story for L.L. Bean. It was just me and the girls, just like when we're out there on the road. We also shot an amazing job for Honda on what it means to be a father in the US today. We traveled up and down the Eastern seaboard to meet up with and photograph all sorts of dads and kids.
How was the experience with the Lomo'Instant Automat -- have you used instant photography before?
Using the Automat was really fun and freeing! I haven't really used instant photography that much in the past. It was exciting for many reasons, one of which was that I was able to hand off the camera to my daughter Clover and she could take pictures alongside me. We worked hand-in-hand, often exchanging cameras as we went about our journeys. Some of the images are from her and some from me, which really makes them special in my eyes. It was really exciting to see the images appear before our eyes in a way that was really physical and different than what we're used to seeing with the digital cameras.
Do you guys have any tips or anything you learned while shooting?
One of the most important things that I learned on the shoot was trying to control the exposure. Understanding how the sun would work with the background and then setting the camera the right way to get the output that I was most interested in achieving. There was a lot of trial and error but once I got it dialed in it was really fun. We experimented with using the flash and underexposing the overall image. This made the images darker and moodier, which is something that we were after. We stumbled upon a pile of bones on a hike in the woods and wanted to give it a darker feel, and this approach helped us achieve that goal. It's fun to shoot with the Automat and its small prints. It's exciting to collect them. We often collect things out in the woods when we're exploring. Shooting with this camera allowed us to use that mentality and collect stacks of photos. They served as evidence of the journey in a really physical way, which was really fun and different for us.
Photography seems to be a means for you to connect, with the natural world, with your family...do you feel that instant photography changes that process at all?
I would say for me there was a really amazing instant gratification feeling that came in working with this camera. We were taking photos and collecting evidence along the journey in real-time. Usually, this is reserved for editing and such back in the studio when we get home from our trips. But this time we were collecting as we went, which was very different and really inspired us to keep shooting. It gets really addicting and we found ourselves giggling and getting really amped to keep shooting. We could never have enough shots.
The Neptune art lenses are designed for compact size, to make it easier to carry a variety of optics on your photo adventures. Did you find this to be true? Were you able to experiment more because of their size? What kinds of lenses do you usually use?
The Neptune lenses were fantastic! The size, the glass, everything. I found it really easy to swap out lenses and shoot seamlessly. I was really fond of the long lens in particular. (80mm???) it's a focal length that I'm not used to using which is always exciting. I love how it falls off behind the subject when you focus relatively close to the camera. It creates this incredibly specific feel of intimacy. I found myself studying the subjects and a much more fine-tuned way than I am used to working.
Do you find that in making your work, you're finding an idea or story, or an idea or story finds you?
I feel like I'm always searching for a story when I am shooting. On occasion, I stumble across things that were unexpected but usually, that's because I was down a specific path that I had intended to go. I never intended to have Wild & Precious become the project that it became. I had a child and I didn't see her as part of my photography work initially. Then we went on a road trip and things fell into my lap in ways that I couldn’t have predicted. But once I saw what was happening I was able to capitalize on it. I think what's most important is that you stay open to ideas that might come to you in ways that are unexpected. I think that's what's most important to me in my photography is to be open and aware. Things will come into your sphere from all different angles and you just have to be able to witness them and then make the best of the situation. That happens to me time and time again.
What unexpected thing keeps you inspired?
I think the things that keep me inspired are the unexpected connections I see in life. Whether it be in my personal life, commercial photography or my artwork practices. Always being aware of what's happening around me has allowed me to be a better photographer. Inspiration for me comes in so many different ways. I might find it out on a nature hike with my children or I might see something watching a football game on television. I just never know. I just try to be present wherever we are and keep looking. Working with my phone has actually helped me quite a bit because it allows me to be really off-the-cuff in terms of shooting at a low impact level. You have this device in your pocket and it allows you to take great pictures, so your job is to just be there and have the vision, then use the device to capture those moments. That’s how I approached working with the Automat. What really keeps me inspired is seeing the world in a constant photographic way, whether it's through my phone or camera.
Let's close with your advice to another photographer -- but a twist, it needs to be 10 words or less -- or a haiku!
Be yourself always.
Look within your heart for gold.
Share this with the world.