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View of house between two casinos - Town of Atlantic City, North end of Absecon Island, South of Absecon Channel, Atlantic City, Atlantic County, NJ. Photo by Jack E. Boucher.

The Visual Legacy of Jack E. Boucher, Architectural Photographer

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View of house between two casinos - Atlantic City, NJ. Photo by Jack E. Boucher.
View of house between two casinos – Town of Atlantic City, North end of Absecon Island, South of Absecon Channel, Atlantic City, Atlantic County, NJ. Photo by Jack E. Boucher.


In a career spanning forty-six years, Jack E. Boucher traveled through forty-nine states and two U.S. territories to photograph for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) and its sister projects, the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) and Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS). Boucher passed away recently, so I asked colleagues here to share stories and images that reflect his legacy:

“For me this image by Jack Boucher has it all. Its composition eloquently captures the tension inherent in the changing scale and character of American cities, here Atlantic City, New Jersey. The looming presence of new casino construction frames a perfectly lit remnant of the past, its dignity and human qualities preserved forever. A lipstick-colored sports car adds just the right note, signifying both defiance and survival in the face of adversity.”

-C. Ford Peatross, Director, Center for Architecture, Design & Engineering

Shaker South Family Barn, Harvard, Worcester County, MA. Photo by Jack E. Boucher, August 1963.

“Jack Boucher could entrance with his photos as well as explain.  

As you study this seemingly simple shot of the interior of a Shaker barn, you realize Boucher’s genius for explanation. His shot of this attic reveals multiple sources of light. The entire space takes on a glow, and your eye travels to pick up the various elements that make up the barn. Light falls on the wooden floor. It reveals the presence of the low stone walls. Most of all, it illuminates the massive, hand-hewn rafters and roof trusses. In the end, you find yourself appreciating the way Boucher has captured the barn in bright light, while at the same time you are learning a great deal about Shaker construction.”

-Marilyn Ibach, Reference Specialist – Architecture

Felix & Odile Pratt Valle House, Sainte Genevieve, MO. Photo by Jack E. Boucher, 1986.
Felix & Odile Pratt Valle House, Sainte Genevieve, MO. Photo by Jack E. Boucher, 1986.

“I took an architectural photography class taught by Jack Boucher. He described to us the roadtrips he used to take, photographing historic buildings for HABS. In addition to all sorts of supplies, he recommended taking a hatchet on photography expeditions. This was not for protection from suspicious and irate property owners. After setting up a shot, he would use it to hack off a branch, which he recommended holding in the frame to tone down the sky and enhance the composition. Sometimes existing landscaping is insufficient!”

-Greg Marcangelo, Cataloging Specialist


U.S. Capitol, Statue of Freedom, Washington, DC. Photo by Jack E. Boucher, May 1993.

“I always loved the survey of the Statue of Freedom on the Capitol Dome taken in 1993. This was done when the statue was taken down for restoration. I was a kid living in the area at that time and remember that everyone came to the Capitol grounds to see the statue up close.  I especially love how Jack captured the process, especially the shot of the helicopter removing the statue from the top of the dome, to putting the statue in a weird context, on the east front on the Capitol grounds, and the details that no one had seen up close since the Civil War.”

-Mary Christ, Processing Technician

“I remember how these images of Bathhouses in Hot Springs, Arkansas captured for me a bygone era – the beauty of the buildings as well as the experience of a pampering resort that flourished in the first half of the 20th century in Hot Springs – and the reality of how moments in time can be just that – unsustained moments in time. Jack did that so well: capturing what it was that made a particular structure historic and worth documentation. He always did a good job of ‘Here’s the building’ -  but he also was able to document particular angles and details that reflected its essence.”

-Kit Arrington, Digital Library Specialist

Reading Room, Bathhouse Row, Fordyce Bathhouse, Central Avenue, Hot Springs, AR Photo by Jack E. Boucher, June 1984.
Reading Room, Fordyce Bathhouse, Hot Springs, AR. Photo by Jack E. Boucher, June 1984.

Boucher himself said it best in a 1995 interview with The Post and Courier of Charleston, S.C.: “My whole philosophy is, I regard the building I’m doing as the most important one in my life, even if it’s a single-seat log outhouse.”  Words to live by—and to be remembered for.

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Comments (11)

  1. All photographs placed here send a big message.
    What do you appeal for?
    Do you want you to watch what?
    They express it definitely.

  2. This is wonderful! I love the idea of asking a variety of people to share their memories and a select photo. Great idea! I loved reading the memories as well as seeing the beautiful photos! Thank you LOC and contributors!

  3. these are neat pictures, i, WHITE – mexican( a name i called myself in my mind-but never told my parent’s’)printed them all out. i, jEFF Castilo, have been to Atlantic, THE GARDEN state of NEWjersey, citY, before, was in the gambling CASINO, playED the [ONE United stateS QuAtEr slot MACHINES]ONE Arm bandit, when i had the old STATE of illinois I{dentification} c{ARD}, with THE hologram one THE one CENTPenny, on the PRIMA facie, Lot Of S.E.N.I.O.R. c|i\t|i|z|e|N|s|, it WAS a LITTLE morose/ DEPRESSING/Remourse-full, but otherwise calm, wih of course the CASINO Control commission, in \every bldg CuBiClE. Sincerely Jeffrey Alan cASTILLO

  4. Hi,

    Thanks for the post and for sharing those images. The date is missing for the “House between two casinos” photo. Is there a way to retrieve it? I’ve already check the LOC record, but the date is also missing there.

    Thanks agains,


  5. As a photographer of HABS projects on the west coast, I did not get a chance to meet Jack Boucher, but I viewed his books and read and re-read his text because it resonated with me. He had a passion for the buildings and the photography craft and it shows in his documentations. He’s one of my heroes. Thank you for sharing these images!

  6. can anyone tell me if the image of “House Between Two Casinos” is flipped or not? The text on the border of the negative indicates it is but I can’t find another image with it shown the other way

  7. At 800% you can read the Camaro logo on the red car in the “House Between Two Casinos.” Fantastic Boucher photo. And the fact that the large tiff files at the library of Congress allow us to zoom into detail like this is the whole reason for the large format 5×7 and 4×5 film. Tons of detail.

  8. Ryan –
    The photo of the house between too casinos is not flipped. As Stephen Schafer points out, if you zoom into the largest high resolution file, you can actually read the word Camaro on the side of the car, showing it is oriented correctly.

    Mr. Schafer – it’s wonderful to hear, especially since you are a HABS photographer, that you are enjoying the high resolution files! As you say, these files at least do justice to the larger format film and the details they capture!

  9. I knew Jack a bit professionally. He was like the kindly grandfather, Grand Master and corporate memory of the profession-all rolled into one. I wish I had more time with him. He will be missed. RIP.

  10. I took a photography class from Mr. Boucher in the early 1980s through the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture extension classes. He was a powerhouse and I found him a little intimidating, but I knew he was in the presence of a legend even then…

  11. I met Jack on Nantucket when he was giving a class a number of years ago. I had talked to him before hand and he said drop in so I attended two days with a class. I was already working in large format. I loved this type of work, but I knew that there was lots of things I could learn from him, I called him up a year or so before he died and we had a wonderful conversation. I invited him up to the architectural photography network at the Boston Society of architects but unfortunately he was not able to make it. He was a wonderful guy, great at his job and I believe people who learned from him tend to never forget things that he taught them.

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