It was over seven years ago now that photographer Jake Green became interested in the process of making coffee. He began with those who make your cup of coffee locally, working on a portrait series of influential coffee baristas following the explosion of coffee culture in London around 2012.
Later expanding the series to include those with the knack for roasting in Paris, Berlin and New York, the photographer not only understood the reasoning behind this individual care taken, but “coffee as more than just a beverage,” he tells It’s Nice That. In turn, Jake began to view coffee as a commodity but also, a symbol of global food production.
Fascinated with this subject matter, the next natural step was for Jake to “visit coffee at origin, where it’s grown and produced,” he explains. Furthering his understanding, the photographer planned a trip following his contact with Nordic Approach, an importer “focusing solely on high-quality free coffees”. Working first on Drink my Sweat – his first photographic exploration of the subject in Columbia – now, Jake has visited Kenya too, completing Kunywa Jasho Langu: Coffee Kenya his second photobook currently crowdfunding on Kickstarter.
Sensitively shot in a documentary style, this latest instalment of Jake’s lengthy project visualises his belief that “in general, I think it’s important for us to understand all of our food,” he says, “anything we consume really.” Coffee, in particular, provides a hook for this discussion considering how, as a product, it stretches across both mainstream production through larger chains such as Costa and Starbucks and Nestlé. At the other side of the spectrum, however, where Jake’s interest largely lies, is the specialist coffee makers such as Workshop Coffee, Union, Square Mile and Notes, who are a “very well informed alternative to the mainstream that I am keen to document and share.”
What Kunywa Jasho Langu: Coffee Kenya provides, as a result, is an example of how much a difference where you buy your coffee from can make. As a consumer, Jake feels coffee drinkers can have an impact through the small act of buying their morning pick-me-up with a local cafe and local roaster, “as they really are engaged in what they do in a way that not everyone on the high street is,” he points out. In turn, Jake’s photographic focus on the subject will hopefully encourage audiences to “feel more connected to where their coffee comes from, and more comfortable paying a premium for the higher quality coffee.”
The photographs which display this are expansive in their subject matter, from the entrance of buildings such as the Nairobi Coffee Exchange to the view from a coffee exchange sample room, to green coffee being washed. Zooming into to such details in the project has also impacted the way in which Jake consumes his own coffee. Although it’s such a universal product, available in multiple formats at the drop of a hat, really we shouldn’t “waste a single bean”.
You can support and read more about Jake’s project here.
About the Author
Lucy joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In October 2016 she became a staff writer on the editorial team and in January 2019 was made It’s Nice That’s deputy editor. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about new and upcoming creative projects or editorial ideas for the site.