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A new exhibition featuring botanical photographs by retired UT botany professor Alan S. Heilman, opens Friday, June 5, at the McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture.

Lotus_0702Through the Lens: Botanical Photography of Alan S. Heilman explores the art and science of sixty-plus years of Heilman’s award-winning botanical photography of leaves, buds, flowers, fruits, seeds, mosses, lichens, cones, and bark of plants native to or grown in the East Tennessee region. The exhibition will run through August 30.

The fifty-five photographs on view include images of plants from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the UT Gardens on the Agriculture Campus, and highlight Heilman’s fascination with color, texture, and plant structure.

Trumpet Lily_0581“Images in the exhibit are products of a lifelong scientist who became an artist, painting through a lens,” said exhibition curator Gary Crites, McClung Museum curator of paleoethnobotany. “The exhibit offers an exciting blend of plant structure, which has been at the core of Heilman’s decades as a student, educator, and advocate for habitat appreciation and protection, and the artist’s eye for color, form, and function in nature.”

Highlights of Through the Lens include the diversity of plant species, types, and parts photographed. It includes veterans of various photograph competitions, including regional and national award winners. A sunflower image in the exhibit was awarded first place in the Natural World Photographic Competition held at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in 1996.

Strawberry-Bush_0324Heilman began his career as a science photographer in the 1940s, when he used his Kodak Recomar 33 and a darkroom in his family’s basement to experiment with making microscopic enlargements of dissected plants. He continued to take thousands of photographs of plants in the field and under the microscope over the next decades, amassing an archive of images, many of which are available today as digitized color-film photographs housed at the UT Libraries. They can be viewed at

The exhibition includes prints produced from digital files held by UT Libraries, as well as prints gifted by Heilman to the UT Gardens.

Several exhibit-related family programs are planned. They include Family Fun Days from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. on June 20 and August 1 and a Stroller Tour for parents, caregivers, and young children at 10:00 a.m. on June 8 and August 24.

A lecture on macro, or extreme close-up, photography, will be given by local nature photographer Kendall Chiles at 3:00 p.m. on June 14 in the museum auditorium. UT Gardens Director Sue Hamilton also will lead a plant and garden photography demo at the museum at 3:00 p.m. on July 19.

Through the Lens is organized by Crites in collaboration with UT Libraries and UT Gardens. The exhibition is presented by First Tennessee Foundation, UT Federal Credit Union, and Thompson Photo Products. Additional support is provided by Knox County, the City of Knoxville, and the Arts and Heritage Fund.

The McClung Museum is located at 1327 Circle Park Drive. Museum admission is free, and the museum’s hours are 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. on Sundays. Free two-hour museum parking passes are available from the parking information building at the entrance to Circle Park Drive on the weekdays. Free parking is available on Circle Park Drive on a first-come, first-served basis on weekends. Free public transportation to the museum is also available via the Knoxville Trolley Vol Line.



Gary Crites, (865-974-2144,

Stacy Palado (865-974-2143,