Forage your way through Adam Whyte’s photographic love letter to New York’s fungi

In collaboration with Well Advised Studio, the series has now been collated into a publication titled In Search of Fungi – “half field book, half fine art photography book”.

19 October 2022

It was in the midst of the pandemic that photographer Adam Whyte decided to move back home to New York. Prior to their move, they had briefly relocated to Los Angeles, taking “respite from the hustle and bustle of New York” and spending a lot of time in the national parks and wilderness of the West Coast. Upon returning home, Adam was keen not to let his “huge affinity, perhaps romanticism” for nature to be quashed. So, he set himself the task of regularly escaping the concrete jungle and exploring the great outdoors of the East Coast.

Their first hike took place in the Hudson Valley after heavy rainfall, which had allowed for the area’s mycological universe to flourish. Previously being “completely clueless” about mushrooms, Adam was overwhelmed at his discovery of the vast array of fungi on display; “fruiting mushrooms of all shapes, colours and sizes”. Diving head first into research – “from Louie Schwartzberg’s Fantastic Fungi to John Cage’s A Mycological Foray, the New York Mycological Society to online mushroom forums” – Adam soon became invested in the world of foraging. And of course, being a creatively minded photographer, shooting their new obsession was a natural next step.

GalleryAdam Whyte: In Search of Fungi (Copyright © Adam Whyte, 2022)

When deciding upon the series’ aesthetics, Adam says that he “wanted to capture these eccentric characters in their natural settings”. Therefore, he went against using a studio. But, despite this, most images in the book avoid the use of natural light, instead opting for a bright and overexposed feel: “I opted to use different methods of artificial lighting throughout the book’s images to create a world that felt just as uncanny as the subjects themselves,” Adam details. Interestingly, this choice is not only an aesthetic one but a thematic one too, as Adam also wanted to reflect that “mushrooms don’t photosynthesise or rely on sunlight.”

This specific approach to lighting resulted in one of Adam’s favourite images from the series, Untitled (Russula Emetica). From one of Adam’s earliest hikes, the majestic image shows the mushroom from a slightly upward angle – its stark white body topped by a hat of red, its gills crisp and detailed in the bright flash, a fat droplet of water illuminated. “Exploring different species of mushrooms and methods to capture them began to feel akin to the ways a photographer would explore sculpting light in the studio – to capture the ‘right’ portrait of their sitting subject,” they expand.

After sharing a few of the images online, Jordan Vouga of Well Advised Studio – a fellow fungi lover – reached out to Adam to see if he was interested in working on a book together. “We worked together on building out a book that felt less like a field guide on mushroom species, and more like a hybrid between a ‘field book’ and a fine art photography book,” Adam details. “We wanted to give the mysticism and allure of mushrooms, the science of mycology and fine art photography a space where they can coincide and work in tandem with each other.” The book formats and sizes the images in a number of ways, pairing mushrooms and sometimes offering full-page spreads to particularly impressive landscape images. The accompanying text, Adam explains, is not to be “a guide or scientific document on foraging”. Instead, it's “a mycological foray that lends a glimpse into otherworldly forms and colour far beyond the white buttons and creminis found on supermarket shelves".

Hoping that the series will spark some curiosity or wonder in its audience, Adam summarises that the book is to be “a love letter to the whimsical and ethereal world of mushrooms”. Whether you’re a long-time mushroom lover, a new-found fan in the world of fungi, or have never even taken a second thought about the eccentric growths, this book is sure to show you the never-ending wonder of the natural environment.

GalleryAdam Whyte: In Search of Fungi (Copyright © Adam Whyte, 2022)

GalleryWell Advised Studio: In Search of Fungi (Copyright © Well Advised Studio, 2022)

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Adam Whyte: In Search of Fungi (Copyright © Adam Whyte, 2022)

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About the Author

Olivia Hingley

Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English Literature and History, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.

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