Odd Apples: A New Photo Book Celebrates the Strange and Enchanting Fruit

Pink pearl, native to California, mid-1900s. All images © William Mullan, shared with permission

Lumpy, spotted, and exposed in succulent slices, the apples highlighted in a new book by William Mullan aren’t those you’d typically find in a grocery store. Instead, the Brooklyn-based photographer focuses on rare specimens like pink pearls, the aptly named knobbed russets, and speckled black oxfords that he sources from farmer’s markets or rural roadsides. These sometimes hard-to-find varieties are the subject matter of his portraits that spotlight the stunning, strange diversity of the species.

The humble fruit has a long history of religious and cultural significance and of course, is also a commodity, a characterization Mullan hopes to complicate by celebrating their unique beauty. “Due to their heterozygous nature, every apple tree that grows successfully from seed will be a brand new apple tree, with traits coming from the seed parent and the pollinator parent” (aka pollen from a nearby blossom). Combined with the fact that the species has 42,000 to 44,000 genes, which is nearly twice as many as people, thousands of different varieties have been produced, creating “a splendid array of aesthetic and flavor characteristics: from apples with red and pink flesh, to apples shaped like stars, candles, and toads, to apples that taste like licorice and strawberry shortcake,” Mullan shares.

 

Knobbed russet, native to Sussex, England, 1820

Published by Hatje Cantz with design by Andrea Trabucco-Campos, the updated edition of Odd Apples contains 90 images and was designed to feel like “a walk through a magical orchard,” one that captures the breadth of the species. A few of Mullan’s favorites include the dry, sour-cherry flavor of the endangered niedzwetzkyana or the otherworldly, neon flesh of the oblong Kandil sinap. While some of his subjects were cultivated relatively recently, others, like the lemony, vitamin C-packed calville blanc d’hiver, date back to the 1600s. “Some of the best apples are really like, right off the roads and highways, along farm fence lines and inside city parks,” he adds.

The Odd Apples project originally began in 2017, with a smaller 32-page book published in 2018, and Mullan continues to shoot all of the images in his apartment or the studio at Raaka Chocolate, where he works as the brand director. Focusing largely on the color and texture, the enchanting portraits are imbued with meaning beyond the fruit’s physical qualities, and each is paired with a written profile. “Their character would spark something in my head, usually a mood or something from pop culture,” he tells Colossal. “Every portrait is an attempt to really capture the mood, expression, and character of that apple but also my interpretation of that and therefore all the experiences I’ve had in my life, too.”

A special, limited edition of Odd Apples, which includes a Hidden Rose print, is for sale on the book’s site, and it’s also available for pre-order on Bookshop. You can follow Mullan’s fruit and flower-based photos on Instagram. (via Creative Boom)

 

Top left: Black oxford, native to Paris, Maine, 1790. Top right: Malus sieversii. Bottom left: Kandil sinap, native to Anatolia or Crimea, date unknown.Bottom right: Api etoile

Niedzwetzkyana, native to Kyrgyzstan, date unknown

Hidden Rose

Left: Grenadine, native to California, mid-1900s. Right: Calville blanc d’hiver, native to Normandy, France, 1600s

Scarlet surprise

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