Seeking Perfection: Traditional Apple Growing in Japan
2006 - 2009
Archival pigment prints
Growing apples in the traditional way is a laborious, hands-on process in Japan. At the moment of harvest, an apple raised in this manner has been touched by the farmer’s hands at least ten times since its blossom set. This includes picking off unwanted flower buds, hand-pollinating the blossoms, pruning the branches, covering individual fruit in light-tight bags, hand-culling imperfect fruit, hand-turning them to ensure even coloring, and, in some cases, affixing stencils to the apples.
This approach to raising fruit is slowly disappearing. When asked why fewer apples are being bagged now than 15 years ago, the farmers will hold up their hands and say, “There are not enough hands!” This reflects the lack of migrant workers in Japan, as well as the desire of young people to move off the farms and find work in the cities.
For two growing seasons on the apple farms of Aomori Prefecture, I produced photographs with a medium format camera. The resulting body of work is a meditation on the time, care, and attention that farmers using this method lavish on their orchards. Speaking to a tradition that is becoming increasingly marginalized, these photographs preserve for future generations a memory of the agricultural past.