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Lumen Prints of Florida Flora
Jerry Burchfield

February 28 - May 2, 2009
Artist's Talk, Book Signing and Opening Reception: February 28, 5:00-7:30pm
Curator's Gallery Talk: March 19, 1:00pm

Copyright Jerry Burchfield
Asimina obovata (Pau Paw), 2007

“Burchfield has composed a body of work that transcends utilitarian concerns to explore a mysterious creative arena where chance and skill collaborate. From the earliest photographic experiments with light-sensitive materials to modernist fascination with the subconscious to current conceptual practice, Burchfield’s lumen prints suggest the gamut of the history of photography.”

—Thomas McGovern


Burchfield is one of three distinguished landscape photographers who have created new exhibitions of work about Florida for display at the museum. Florida is home to many unique ecosystems and the nation’s largest tropical and subtropical rain forests. From earliest colonial times scholars, writers, and artists have chronicled the rich history of exploration, botanical inquiry, and artistic curiosity that Florida has engendered. Inhabiting a unique place in the popular imagination, Florida has been by turns a mysterious, exotic, fearful, wonderful, and fecund image in the American psyche.

Over a two-year period Jerry Burchfield traveled to Florida to complete fieldwork, specimen gathering, and the photographic recording of plant specimens in various seasons and over a wide range of ecosystems. Although his project is chiefly artistic and evocative, it is also based on scientific principles and identifications. Unlike the earlier Amazon images, produced of necessity on the deck of a boat, his Florida images are land-based and therefore represent a far greater diversity formats, sizes and sequences. This exhibition features single images and multi-image collages. The largest collage reproduces the main elements of an entire east central Florida eco-system; the pine flatwoods. For more information about the pine flatwoods mural, click here. (pdf)

The elegant pastels and glowing forms that emerge in his beautiful lumen prints remind us of the primordial power, vitality, and energy of a natural environment that has faded into oblivion. In his willingness to submit to natural processes rather than assert domination over his subject, Jerry Burchfield is a most respectful and humble soul — a powerful metaphor indeed.

Exotics Photogram
This floor installation piece on view at the Southeast Museum of Photography includes a bottom layer of silver gelatin photographic paper upon which Jerry Burchfield has placed plant specimens, freshly collected from central Florida. These plants specimens are chiefly invasive species to this ecosystem. This mural echoes the circular form of a “mandala” and will form the latest chapter in the artist’s evolving “exotics” mural series. Immediately prior to opening this exhibition the installation was assembled, covered with protective glass and sealed. Over the course of the exhibition the light energy falling on the photographic paper around the specimens will slowly accumulate to form a visible image. At the end of this exhibition the exposed photo paper will be processed to form a “fixed” and light fast visible image.
Jerry Burchfield
photo credit: Christina Katsolis

“We are able to read Burchfield’s lumen prints as symbol and metaphor…visions of strange, private, disturbing, psychological, and mythic worlds felt or discovered by the photographer.” —Jonathan Green.


Jerry Burchfield has a reverence for the integrity and beauty of the natural landscape that few people could sustain. The history and legacy of photographic landscape images reveals that, for the most part, photographers have largely been content with conveying an essentially “retinal” experience of nature.  The complexities of the living processes that underlie the purely visual aspects of a place are often overlooked or insufficiently considered. If it were just a matter of the making a series of new landscape images, Burchfield’s work might have followed this conventional path, but he has chosen to strike out on his own, and the results are compelling. In his odyssey as an artist Burchfield has been drawn as a photographer and activist to the most extreme of locales in the search for his subjects: the Arizona desert, the Amazon Basin, and now Florida’s subtropical forest.

Jerry Burchfield has developed photographic methods and techniques that draw out the essence of nature in all its surprising complexity and give form to that complexity. That his methods owe such a debt to the very origins of photography only serves to heighten the intensity of feeling that his prints evoke. He has deliberately reverted to working on-site directly from plant specimens, and his “photogenic” drawing is derived, as was that of William Henry Fox Talbot, from the long history of botanical illustration, specimen notes, and the iconography of the metaphorical florilegium. Just as a fossil, with its direct impression of the living form that was once there, has the ability to arrest us and collapse the time that has passed since it was created, so his sublime images have the power to move us in a complex and beguiling way.

CLICK HERE to download Jerry Burchfield's Artist Statement (pdf)

Artist’s Acknowledgements

I am grateful to Louise Chapman, whose buoyant personality and enthusiasm brightened rainy days. It was Louise, who directs a Teacher-on-Assignment Environmental Legacy Project, who allowed me to use the Bicentennial Youth Park near Deland, Florida, as my base of operations. Without her help I would not have been able to produce the work that resulted. I also thank Randall Sleister, Manager of Land Management in Volusia County, for his support and assistance.

Don Spence deserves special thanks for teaching me about the wonders of Florida’s plant life. In addition to contributing to the book, he took me on specimen hunts, helped in the field, identified plants, and played an integral role in the design of the mural. I also thank the Photo Department faculty and staff at Daytona State College, who provided the use of their facility and encouraged students to assist with the project.

I am particularly grateful to three special friends, Diane Edwards, Jerry Keane, and Damon Nicholson, who were my partners in this endeavor. They traveled to Florida and helped in the field with anything and everything. They also photographed and videotaped all aspects of the project. Back home in California, they continued to assist. We spent weeks processing the prints and photographing the final pieces from each trip. Jerry Keane also helped with the post-production work on the mural and the individual images. Volunteer project assistants include Laura Flanders, Jason Boldt, Victoria Aldrich, Yvette San Filippo, Jennifer Perez, John de Silva, Tyson Robertson, Christina Katsolis, Matt Bruce, and Whitney Connolly.     
Burchfield on location in Florida
The Making of a Lumen Print, Deland, Florida 

Still others who deserve mention for their help and support are my designer, Mark Caneso, John Hesketh, John and Kathy Carpenter, Ronald and Fran Chilcote, Nick Adcock, Paul Paiement, my wife, Barbara, and my son, Brian. In addition, I thank Ron Miller and Grace Suphamark from Cypress College for their help and my colleagues in The Legacy Project—Mark Chamberlain, Jacques Garnier, Robert Johnson, Douglas McCulloh, and Clayton Spada.

Notes about Plant Identification
A concerted effort was made to identify the plant species used to make the lumen prints for the Understory project. Photographs were made of the plants in the field. Notes, rough sketches, and additional photographs were made of each cutting during the making of the prints. The magnitude and diversity of plant species in Florida, and the circumstances in the field, often made the identification difficult, if not impossible. Most of the plants are titled by scientific name and the colloquial name. “Untitled” is only used with plants not yet identified.

Thomas McGovern is an artist/photographer and Professor at California State University, San Bernardino.

Johnathan Green wrote the introduction to Jerry Burchfield's book Primal Images: 100 Lumen Prints of Amazonia Flora. He is currently the executive director of UCR/ARTSblock in Riverside, California and is the former Director of the UCR/California Museum of Photography.
Pine Flatwoods Mural 10'x30'

Installation Images:    
Jerry Burchfield Installation Image Jerry Burchfield Installation Image Jerry Burchfield Installation Image
Jerry Burchfield Installation Image Jerry Burchfield Installation Image Jerry Burchfield Installation Image

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Exhibitions and programs at the Southeast Museum of Photography are supported in part by Daytona State College, Volusia ECHO and the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Council on the Arts.

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