Looking at Leaves: Photographs by Amanda Means

May 9, 2008

Photography Exhibition opens May 9, 2008 at Harvard Museum of Natural History 

Dramatic black and white images of single leaves by New York photographer Amanda Means are a monument to the remarkable diversity and beauty of nature's botanical forms. These detailed blow-ups, some printed as large as 38 x 46 inches, were created by using the leaf itself in the same way as a photographic negative. The immediacy of the process gives the images an eerie intensity and adds to their compelling beauty.

“Means has the eye of both an artist and a scientist.” commented Elisabeth Werby, Executive Director of the Harvard Museum of Natural History. “These extraordinary photographs offer new ways to see and think about plants, raising intriguing questions about leaf form and function.” Looking at Leaves is the third in the museum’s series of photographic exhibitions which invite visitors to look closer at the world around them, to observe detail and pattern, and are designed to provoke inquiry.

Means' fascination with botanical images over the last twenty years is, in part, scientific. The leaves she works with reflect lives lived in the wild, whether in the rain forest or in Central Park. Some show cracks. On others you can see pathways of insects as they ate their way across the surface. Some reflect the evolutionary history of plants, from the Peacock Plant's more primitive pattern of parallel leaf veins to the leaves of later plants with branching veins  — reflecting how the plants evolved a more efficient way to transport water and nutrients through the leaf's surface.

Looking at Leaves will be on display at the Harvard Museum of Natural History through February 8, 2009. The photographer will offer gallery talks for the public on Friday, May 8 at 3:00 pm and Saturday, May 9th at 10:00 am, free with museum admission.  

About the Photographer
Raised in rural upstate New York, Means has lived and worked in Manhattan and Woodstock, NY for 25 years.  She's a graduate of Cornell University with an MFA from SUNY Buffalo. Her work is held in the collections of numerous museums, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the MIT List Visual Arts Center, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and the Whitney Museum of American  Art in NYC. Her work has been exhibited widely in the US, as well as in London, Madrid and Jerusalem. She is represented in New York City by the Ricco/Maresca Gallery and by Gallery 339 in Philadelphia, and has been shown at the Yezerski Gallery in Boston. 

Looking at Leaves continues a series of important photographic exhibitions at the Harvard Museum of Natural History. A 2006 exhibition, Looking at Landscape: Environmental Puzzles from Three Photographers, featured works by three acclaimed photographers— award winning aerial photographer Alex S. MacLean, MIT Professor of Landscape Architecture and Planning Anne Whiston Spirn, and MacArthur Fellow Camilo Jose Vergara. Looking at Landscape was subsequently exhibited at the New York Hall of Science in New York City. The second exhibition, Looking at Animals: Photographs by Henry Horenstein, features haunting close-ups of creatures from land and sea by the renowned Boston photographer and RISD professor. Looking at Animals is in its last months at the Harvard Museum of Natural History and will close April 27, 2008.

Harvard Museum of Natural History
The Harvard Museum of Natural History is located at 26 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA, a 6-minute walk from the Harvard Square T station. The Museum is handicapped accessible. For general information please call 617.495.3045 or see the "Plan Your Visit" page.

With a mission to enhance public understanding and appreciation of the natural world and the human place in it, the Harvard Museum of Natural History draws on the University’s collections and research to present a historic and interdisciplinary exploration of science and nature. More than 165,000 visitors annually make it the University’s most-visited museum.  


See also: Press Release