A collection of images by featured photographer Jennifer Steen Booher celebrating the beauty of New England autumn leaves.
By Heather Marcus
Aug 31 2017
Mottled Autumn Maple Leaves, Acer rubrum.Photo Credit : Jennifer Steen Booher
My family lived on the edge of a small mill town in central Massachusetts, with a stream in the back yard, farms up on the hills, and a state forest behind the houses across the street. I spent a lot of my childhood climbing trees and running around in the woods, poking at tadpole eggs and trying to catch minnows with my bare hands. I married a guy from Bar Harbor, and he convinced me to move back to the island with him. I’ve spent the last 20 years here in Maine getting to know the ocean and the shoreline, poking at whelk eggs and collecting beach stones. As a photographer, I’m trying to share my fascination with the workings of the natural world. Removing things like autumn leaves and crab shells from their context and presenting them on a crisp white background highlights the individuality of each object and makes it easier to appreciate variations in color and texture. I had picked up autumn leaves before, of course, but until I started working with them I hadn’t realized how many shades of color are in each leaf.
For these still-life photographs I work on a light box in my studio. Commercial light boxes are too small and too expensive, so I built a big one for myself out of foam core, white plexiglass, 2-by-4s, and construction lamps. It’s about 24 by 36. I also use a Huion LED light pad for small things. I shoot with a Nikon D7000, which is a tough old workhorse. I keep promising myself a move up to a full-frame camera, but the D7000 works so well for my outdoor work I hate to move on. In the studio I use a Giottos tripod with a horizontal arm extended out over the light box, and I hang a bag of beach cobbles from the center to balance the weight of the camera.
I was trained as an art historian and a landscape architect, so my influences are pretty diverse. The still-life work draws heavily on 18th-century scientific illustrations, but also on 19th-century Japanese prints. When I was growing up I loved Alexander Calder and Robert Motherwell; these days I find myself studying Nick Cage, Mandy Barker, Mark Dion, and Yayoi Kusama — they all produce work that combines technical mastery with irreverence, playfulness, and deep emotion. Nothing comes close to the inspiration I find from choosing an object — a skull, a leaf, a rock — studying it, touching it, trying to understand how it came to be, and then trying to share with other people what I learned.
To see more of Booher’s work, go to jenniferbooher.com.