Jack Boucher

Jack Boucher grew up in Atlantic City and shot his first professional pictures there, but he went on to take pictures all over the country for the Historic American Buildings Survey.

Photo provided by James Rosenthal

Jack Boucher got his start as a professional photographer close to home.

The kid from Atlantic City’s inlet section was just 13 when a huge storm hit his hometown in 1944. Jack went out shooting with a camera his parents, Jack Sr. and Alma, gave him for his birthday, and his pictures made the front page of the old Atlantic City Tribune.

But his career didn’t stay local. Boucher would end up shooting all over the country before he died last month, at 80 — just three years after he retired as a photographer with the Historic American Buildings Survey, a joint project of the National Park Service and the Library of Congress. The library has more than 50,000 of Boucher’s pictures in its collection.

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Still, before he became a national photographer, Boucher captured a lot of his home region’s history and heritage, too.

“Atlantic City’s Historic Absecon Lighthouse,” says Joan Klein, his younger sister, going through a stack of Boucher’s books in her Northfield home. “Of Batsto and Bog Iron.” ... “Absegami Yesteryear.”

That last book was a history of Atlantic County, published by the county Historical Society. All those books came out in 1963 or ’64, and Boucher didn’t just take the pictures — he wrote them, too.

Plus he did much more. One reason why he was perfect to do a book on the lighthouse was because, in 1963, he was named chairman of a committee that encouraged preserving and restoring the structure — at a time when it was badly, visibly deteriorating.

Boucher had a lifelong interest in the lighthouse — only partly because he grew up just down the street from it.

“He told me he had proposed to his wife on the second landing years ago,” says Elinor Veit, of Galloway Township, a lighthouse volunteer who recalls Boucher stopping in after another restoration, in the 1990s.

By then, his job had forced him to move to Maryland. But he liked coming back to see family and friends — and to look in on the lighthouse and more local landmarks.

Fred Klein, his sister’s husband, took Boucher on an old-home tour in June, but the master photographer left his camera home.

He almost always shot in black and white, with an old-fashioned, large-format view camera. And he did it so well that when Boucher retired in 2009, Steve Simmons, the publisher of View Camera magazine, called him “a true, modern-day hero to many of us interested in architectural photography.”

But Atlantic City should know that no matter how good a photographer he was, Boucher was a hero in other ways, too. He didn’t just preserve buildings on film. Back home, he also helped rescue at least one historic building physically, and made sure it stayed standing for future photographers to shoot.

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