Through the Lens

“It’s literally been a dream job. I get so excited every time I get to work with children in a Nature Explore Classroom.”

Taura Horn’s opening words speak volumes. For the last several years, Taura has been our go-to photographer, charged with authentically documenting children at play in Nature Explore Classrooms. It’s not easy work, but it’s rewarding.

Taking the perfect photo necessitates infinite patience, and an understanding of not only the art and science of photography, but also the subtleties of interacting with children. And, of course, it requires a stone-cold set of photography skills.

Photography is in Taura’s genes. Her mother, Susan Horn, is a fine art photographer who shot medium and large format images of women and children when Taura was growing up, and was, for years, the photography professor at Nebraska Wesleyan University. Growing up, Taura was always surrounded by her mother’s work, and was often a subject in her mother’s photos.

After high school—where she shot for the school yearbook on her first Minolta—Taura received her bachelor of fine arts from the San Francisco Art Institute. After she graduated, she assisted wedding and commercial photographers in the city before moving back to Lincoln, Neb. and launching Taura Horn Photography in 2007. Over the years, she has done it all. She’s photographed children with the Easter Bunny and Santa at the mall, taken pictures of families at baseball games, run a mini lab, carried heavy lighting equipment and even modeled, until nine years ago when she turned her concentration to running her studio. She also creates her own artwork, which she shows regularly in local galleries.

Which brings us to Nature Explore, where Taura’s years of experience working with children really shine. She loves taking time to watch children interact with each other and with the toys and instruments in outdoor classrooms, and has noted that often children find entirely new uses for the materials and “loose parts” that surround them.

“I attended a Nature Explore teacher training, and we talked about the ways in which kids interact with toys, and how there’s no wrong way, and it’s our job to encourage them to experiment. That’s very different than how we tend to think as adults. Kids don’t have boundaries or rules; the world’s open to them.”

She added, “I really love the challenges of photographing children. I can’t tell them to smile, because it won’t look natural. Instead, I get to have fun with them. I get to be excited about everything that we’re doing and it works, because I generally am pretty excited about what we’re doing! Whether we’re looking at a tomato, stacking blocks, climbing through a log… I get to play with them and it feels real to me. When I leave these sessions I feel good. It’s really fulfilling, it makes my day.”