Since Joe’s working from home during the Covid-19 quarantine and I’m in the last stages of completing my Ph.D., he and I decided to expand our backyard potted garden. There’s immense satisfaction in growing your own food, and it’s also a huge responsibility to be conscious stewards of an ecosystem that you’ve established. We appreciate the balance that is sometimes very tricky to maintain. Insects start eating leaves, but the birds pick through the herbs to forage for a meal of grubs or caterpillars. They did this often when they were feeding a nest of youngsters. The lizards eat excess insects. Spiders set up webs and feed off various garden pests. But we’ve also had to wrestle with leaf miners, who decimate the foliage on our cucumber plants. We wrapped the concord grapevine with bird netting, but that meant they couldn’t pick off the borer that’s now attacking the grapevine. And let me tell you all about fungus….black fungus, powdery white fungus, rusty-looking fungus. Basil leaves can get fungus. Who knew? But then you get a bowlful of beautiful vegetables like these bell peppers, and how could I disrespect such a vibrant green by shooting them in black and white.
Taking some time to get back to the things that matter…..like marshmallow peeps.
More images inspired by the work of Charles Jones (1866-1959).
Not long ago, I discovered the work of a little-known photographer who never got recognition for his work during his lifetime, and his aesthetic speaks directly to mine in the kinds of subjects he chose and in the kinds of contexts in which he shot them. Charles Jones’s work makes me want to run out and buy produce. In fact, it has. An Englishman born in 1866, he was a lifelong gardener, a very private person according to surviving family members, and apparently, a gifted photographer who made, quite literally, the fruits of his labors his photographic subjects.
Like Vivian Maier’s work, Jones’s work was discovered accidentally. Photograph collector, Sean Sexton, found a trunk for sale at a London antique market that was filled with hundreds of photos of fruits, vegetables, and flowers. Apparently, “they had been passed over and scored by dealers and collectors earlier in the day” but “Sexton instantly saw an originality and quality in the works.” (I need to frequent large flea markets more often.) Sexton then published some of the images in his book Plant Kingdoms of Charles Jones in 1998, but the book was re-released in 2016 with an introduction by Alice Waters.
I can clearly see the love this photographer had for his subject matter. According to Sexton, there are no surviving negatives, so the prints are all that’s left of Mr. Jones’s legacy, in addition to a few stories by surviving relatives about the photographer himself. You can find a wonderful piece about the photographer on this site along with more of his images: http://spitalfieldslife.com/2012/03/09/charles-jones-gardener-photographer
Jones died on November 15, two days after I was born, but I’d like to think I carry forward the legacy of his work. Though I didn’t grow the plant matter I photograph, the fruits, vegetables, flowers, and other botanicals are as alive to me as they were to Jones. This one is for you, Mr. Jones, with gratitude.
O.k., technically, tomatoes are a fruit. Nevertheless, I am reaching for the Zen of dancing produce as a remedy for the frenetic, seemingly never-ending political season. Who knows whether I’ll be weeping and gnashing my teeth come November. For now, let the vegetables dance……
I buy fruits and vegetables just so I can photograph them. Is there a twelve-step program for this? While many times we’ll eventually eat the subject, we did not eat the melons, or the beans (which do taste like regular string beans), or the dragon fruit (although I like dragon fruit).
It’s difficult to go through a farmer’s market without my camera, and with it, Joe is forced to carry all our purchases. A question I hear more and more when I load up a bag with some unusual (for us) items: “Are we actually going to eat this?” I don’t see this ending anytime soon. I fall in love with organic shapes and textures and the way they hold the light.
My name is Kristina and I am powerless over produce.