J.W. Fike's Photographic Survey of the Wild Edible Botanicals of the North American Continent

Since 2007, I’ve been creating a photographic archive depicting North America’s rich trove of wild edible flora. By employing a system that makes it easy to identify both the plant and its edible parts, the images function as reliable guides for foraging. 

Beyond functionality, I try to construct images that operate on multiple levels theoretically and perceptually. Upon longer viewing the botanicals begin to transcend the initial appearance of scientific illustration – they writhe and pulsate trying to communicate with you about their edible parts while hovering over an infinite black expanse. To achieve a layered aesthetic the photographs are meticulously crafted and constructed. I photograph multiple specimens of the same plant and combine the best elements from each to create an archetypal rendering. By judiciously rearranging, scaling, and warping I can vivify the plant and turn the ground into infinite space. 

This work offers a dose of something palliative for the ills of alienation – a sense of connection to a certain place and a certain ecosystem. With this goal in mind, I plan on continuing the survey until I’ve amassed an expansive enough cross-section of the botanical life on the continent to mount biome-specific exhibitions anywhere within the continental United States. I hope the photographic survey can serve as a historical archive during an era of extreme change, and provide viewers all over the country an opportunity to feel a type of numinous bond with their landscapes that will encourage health, engender wonder, help identify free food, and most importantly, inspire greater concern for environmental issues..