The Dazed contributor and photographer puts together a field guide on his personal obsession with foraging and fungi
Dazed contributor, photographer and proud botanist, Benjamin Huseby is feeling a little green. Green thumbed, that is. For the past five years the polymath has found himself enamoured by the various species of plants and mushrooms that have growing along the route between his home and his studio in the centre of Berlin. Elevating them into something of an art, Huseby has immortalised them into a new book titled Weeds & Aliens – in honour of the fauna and fungi. A stunning collection of still life imagery, accompanied by the philosophical and poetic words of Iranian writer and curator Ashkan Sepahvand and fellow Indian writer/curator Natasha Ginwala, Huseby explains: “It is all at once a field guide, a photography book and an eco-polemic,” he tells us. But his interest is far from just a fad and instead stems from a ‘personal obsession’: “Ever since I was a child I have been obsessed with taste, food and nature. I remember vividly how I used to both impress and terrify other children by eating raw stinging nettles when I was six.”
With all the plants having purpose as opposed to just looking pretty, Huseby has been cooking up a storm for his friends and family courtesy of his forage finds. But how does it connect with his previous work – from shooting the inimitable Scar Jo for Dazed’s spring 2014 cover and high fashion editorials such as Autumn/Winter 2014’s “Stranded At The Drive in”? “The short answer would be that there is no connection,” he says. “I've always felt like an outsider, and though I am the same time deeply connected with all the things I do, I live not in the fashion world, nor the art world or the food world. I always feel like I see these worlds from a distance, and only occasionally I dare to enter the centre.” Below we find out more.
What sparked your interest is weeds, mushrooms and botany – so much so you wanted to create a book about them?
Benjamin Huseby: I don't know how I first learned about what plants we could eat, but I spent my whole childhood playing in forests and fields. I think generally from growing up in Norway it was something ever present, I was always tasting leaves and shoots. I just loved the sensation. Somehow I knew what not to eat as well.
What's been the process for creating the book?
Benjamin Huseby: Actually half of it I knew pretty much since I was a child, and the rest is from friends, guided walks with botanists and mycologists and many many books. I've spent a lot more time on research than taking pictures.
The project started from me simply asking myself a question: "What is it that I'm genuinely most interested in?" So it is about a personal obsession, but also follows in the footsteps of other projects I have done as an artist, mostly working with ideas of ecology. It also has a connection to food, another obsession, as all the plants in the book have be used in meals for me and friends, often in my studio.
Can you explain the importance of your contributors Iranian writer/curator Ashkan Sepahvand and fellow writer/curator Indian-born Natasha Ginwala to the book? Why have you chosen to include their words?
Benjamin Huseby: In the writing of my own texts to the book themes relating to migration kept appearing. Ashkan and Natasha were able to give the book a more philosophical and poetic (in the true meanings of these words) perspective, on how the human species migrating patterns are intertwined with those of plant species'. We are like three brown children from very different parts of the world, but have connected in Berlin, so also our friendships are a form of metaphor for a kind of ever-evolving ecology.
If you could only make one dish again from your finds – what would that dish be?
Benjamin Huseby: Not quite a dish, but sparkling elderflower wine is always a winner.
Weeds & Aliens will be available from Donlon Books and Claire de Rouen in London as well as Dashwood Books in New York and by mail order worldwide from Torpedo Press from 19 February, 2015