J.W. Fike’s Photographic Survey of the Wild Edible Botanicals of the North American Continent
Within my system, the plant is excavated, arranged in the studio, photographed, then illustrated digitally in such a way as to render the edible parts in color while the remaining parts, less emphatically, read as contact prints. The plants in the resulting images float in an infinitely black expanse, referencing both photograms of botanical specimens used as scientific illustrations and visions from the collective unconscious. I strive to create images that function as conduits in a uniquely charged space connecting art, science, and spirituality.
While this type of art may appear atavistic and indeed references historical approaches to understanding and utilizing nature, its redeployment, in this contemporary era, is vitally relevant to environmental issues. These edible plants grow all around us, in yards, alleys, ditches, and empty lots. Each testifies to our symbiotic evolution with all of life, and functions as both poetic metaphor and concrete proof of our intimate tether to the natural world. It is my hope that this art foments contemplative wonderment by offering viewers both information and insights that if realized kindle a reconnection to the natural world and a mystical counterbalance to scientific objectivism.
I prefer mounting exhibitions that feature plants found within that same community. My place-based approach to photography signals an interesting shift in configuring the medium’s relation to subject, audience, and site. My work actively engages the community by utilizing relevant contextual information, interdisciplinary research, and an elegant if slightly spellbinding aesthetic. These elements all work together to offer knowledge and conjure a glimpse of deeper ecological truths. My layered approach to creation offers multiple entry points and a diverse range of engagement. Currently, I’ve photographed over one hundred forty plants in fifteen different states and plan to continue the survey until I’ve created a collection that spans the continental United States.
I hope the resulting catalog will serve as an archive for an uncertain ecological future, reliable guide for foraging, and contain meditative symbols in communion with philosophical, spiritual and ecological truths.