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The Burn – Jane Fulton Alt

Book Review

Tim Parkin

Tim Parkin

Amateur Photographer who plays with big cameras and film when in between digital photographs.

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When I first started looking at photos and photo books I vividly remember that visceral thrill of finding a new body of work sparked the imagination and thrilled with the sheer brilliance of seeing and execution. Over time I’ve been encountering this feeling less and less - I still get a thrill from seeing great photography but only a few times a year do I encounter something that reminds me of that original feeling. Jane Fulton Alt’s “The Burn” is one such encounter.


Dav Thomas showed me Jane’s Vimeo video a few months back and I think I was so impressed I managed to order the book before the video had ended.

A bit of background on “The Burn” project. In 2007 whilst Jane

had an artist’s residency at the Ragdale Foundation she encountered a controlled burn. The burns are carried out both to limit the dangerous effect of uncontrolled fires but they are also essential to renew life in the undergrowth. Spotting the creative potential of the burn, Jane asked to come along to future burns in order to photograph them. At the same her sister was diagnosed with cancer and she had a new grandchild. All of these themes were to become fixed within the work she went on to create.

Burn No 33

For me the images are in many ways like Stieglitz’s equivalents - the subject matter can be taken literally or metaphorically or perhaps as a muse to express the artist’s temperament. The result is often beautiful and at times literally sublime. They range from glimpses smoke as backdrop and move through to thick, blinding plumes of smoke, distortions of the heat of the flames and finally the flames themselves charring the landscape.

Burn No. 98

“The Burn” is a 9” by 9” hardback book containing 96 pages and 38 colour plates.

Some of the work has been put together into a handmade fine art book which has an encaustic print at its center. the encaustic is a layering of beeswax over a photograph, adding another veiling layer to what is already an ephemeral work.

Please take the time to look at a video about her work on Vimeo. There is also an interview with Jane at Lens Scratch. You can see more of Jane's work at her website.

Jane’s sister, Peggy Fulton Heller, sadly died in 2012.


You can buy 'The Burn' from Beyond Words.

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  • Nigel

    I think I felt like you did. These images speak. It’s a while since I saw a photo book like this. How to describe it? You got it – a visceral thrill. it moved me and I had ordered my copy before I reached the end of your article.

  • David OBrien

    Not someone who I have come across previously but some fabulous work on her website. The Burn as well as some of her other projects certainly have emotional impact. The video is equally poignant. I very much look forward to receipt of the book. I would also not underestimate the perseverance in capturing these images; many photographers would probably consider rain and cold temperatures as the typical endurance test but hot burning smoke is something different altogether.

  • milouvision

    Bought a copy of this late last year, and it’s still very much a fave,

  • It looks and sounds the most amazing book, Tim – I became aware of it last year when, I think David (above) mentioned it on twitter or the like. My book budget is a bit stretched at the moment – a few things I’d love to get – but this is definitely one I may have to add to the list… Thanks for the review, Lizzie

  • CathR

    Looks an amazing book. Is somebody telling me something I wonder…. Why I mention it is that I was driving down to Tarbert on Harris last Tuesday, not paying much attention after a long day’s journey from Gatwick airport when I was suddenly confronted by a blazing hillside across the loch with loads of billowing smoke. I screeched to a stop and got out the camera because the colours in the smoke were just beautiful as it was lit up by the evening sun. I didn’t know whether it was accidental or not but the man in the hotel said they burn off the vegetation at this time of the year to encourage new growth.

    • I’m no expert Cath but heather is definitely deliberately burned here – all part of keeping the moors in tip top shape for grouse as I understand it – and I would guess other creatures. Have to say burnt heather makes a wonderful subject for abstracts :)

  • francesca

    Simple brilliant and I watched video more than once.
    very emotive in a strange sort of way.

  • Bård

    Just ordered one. Thank you for the recommendation.

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