Exposure
Rewilding the American Child

Daughter Knows Best

A father learns to follow his firstborn’s lead

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Photo: Jesse Burke

When photographer Jesse Burke first started snapping pictures of his five-year-old daughter ­Clover Lee, he often lost his patience. “I realized very quickly that she wasn’t going to listen to me, and I found it incredibly frustrating,” he says. One day, while taking photos of her on the shore of Campobello Island, in New Brunswick, he grew so angry that he took the rope she was playing with and threw it away. But later when he reviewed the images, he realized that the best ones were of her playing the way she wanted to, not his preconceived compositions. “It was an epiphany,” he says. “The key is to relinquish some control to her.” He went from being his daughter’s stubborn director to being her collaborator. Over the next five years, the pair regularly left their Rhode Island home on road trips to wild places, going as far as Washington. Burke documented his daughter as she climbed trees, forded rivers, and held butterflies and frogs. In 2015 he published the images in Wild and Precious, a book that depicts the bravery and fragility of a girl growing up in nature. Clover is now twelve, and her two sisters, Poppy Dee, seven, and Honey Bee, five, have “slowly made their way into the frame once they could interact with the landscape,” says Burke, 46. “All three of them have this compassionate embrace of the natural world. It’s at the core of their existence, and I don’t see it going away.” —Luke Whelan

Photo: Burke and Honey birding in Sharon, Massachusetts

Photo: Jesse Burke

Poppy inside a dead maple in Rhode Island

Photo: Jesse Burke

Clover ­watching a storm ­approach in Boston

Photo: Jesse Burke

Honey exploring ­Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park

Photo: Jesse Burke

Clover peeking into a tree-swallow box in ­Newport, Rhode Island

Photo: Jesse Burke

Poppy, Clover, and their friend Holiday netting crabs in ­Barrington, Rhode Island

Photo: Jesse Burke

Clover observing tide pools at Rhode Island’s Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge

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