This apple artist’s Instagram will change how you look at fruit
They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away, and New York-based photographer William Mullan is serving just that.
By day, William Mullan is a chocolatier at Raaka, an artisanal chocolate factory in Brooklyn, New York. By night (or at least, at a different time of day) he's a fruit photographer extraordinaire. William is one half of the creative mind behind Odd Apples, a project he launched with designer Andrea Trabucco-Campos to showcase the diversity of the classic fruit.
The project, says William, is about the diversity of apple cultivars (plant varieties that come about as a result of selective breeding), “but there's the other side of it which is how the cultivars express themselves differently in different regions,” he explains. “They're a lot like people.”
Before Odd Apples became a limited-run photography book, the images lived exclusively on William’s Instagram account, @pomme_queen, where he continues to post unique varieties of apples, as well as the occasional apple blossom.
“I've been really interested in the cultural and economic aspects of food and how it's such an interesting way to look at the world,” says William, “And I also just love to eat, especially with other people, to share food, and bond over food.”
How would you describe what you do?
When I started the project, I didn't really have a thesis. I don't know if I had anything that I was particularly trying to articulate other than that I had loved apples for a long time. A little while into it, I realised that what I was doing was trying to express something to people that I felt the apple expressed to me, through a single image, often playing with colour and lighting and styling, but always in service of what I felt like that apple personified.
Tell me a bit about the decisions that go into styling the fruit in your shoots.
So this past year I was able to spend a lot of time at the USDA's research orchard in Geneva, New York. And there especially, I would see an apple on the tree, and I would know almost instantly how I wanted to shoot it. The way the apple looked would provoke something in me, like the memory of a piece of music, or a piece of art that I saw, or just some kind of mood, maybe in a film.
A lot of pop culture influences the way that I see the apples and shoot them. It sometimes feels like I'm having a conversation with the apple while I'm shooting it. Like putting it in front of a coloured backdrop and seeing how I feel about it, whether it feels appropriate given the apple -- if I know how it tastes -- or its history, or maybe just the way it looks. I keep working with it until I feel that I've got it. Sometimes it's like I know instantly and I have the vision, and other times I'm improving -- figuring it out as I go.
Are apples actually your favourite fruit?
They are actually my favourite fruit! If I don't eat one I will crave them. They tend to have such a breadth of flavour that I feel like most fruits don't come close to. There's an apple for every single fruit-flavour craving you could possibly have, and honestly even savoury ones too: I've had an apple that literally tastes like olives and bell peppers, I kid you not.
Do you have a favourite apple in particular?
I think my favourite apple of all time is probably the Egremont Russet apple. It is a British apple and it looks like a gold-sprayed potato, but it has the most fantastic nutty, sweet, slightly spicy flavour. It always tasted like autumn incarnate to me: the embodiment of autumn and all those warm, toasty, spicy flavours, but also a nice apple-y flavour. So things like hot cider, or roasted chestnuts.
Where do you find all these cool looking apples?
Initially when I started the project, I was just going to farmers' markets. I'm pretty lucky that in New York we have really great ones across the city and the five boroughs. And I would just religiously go to them, because there are different days where different orchards are. So I would just follow different orchards on Instagram, or look them up in the farmers' markets listings, and if it meant I had to get up really early before work and go to see what they had that's what I would do.
If you were an apple, which apple would you be and why?
That is difficult. Because I definitely feel like I'm different ones on different days! I would like to think that I'm a Thornberry to be honest, which is like a little cotton-candy piece of pop art. But I do not think that I am a Thornberry actually. I think I might be a British apple called a Darcy Spice. It has different layers, like it's a nice apple, it's very sweet, but it's also a bit spicy and a little acidic -- it's got a bit of an edge to it. I like to think that I try to be a nice person, but I can definitely be a little spicy, so I think that I might be a Darcy Spice.