David Robinson’s The Mushroom Picker will make fungi fans of us all
Though David Robinson states that the story came first, the beauty of his newly launched book - an illustrated tome for children called The Mushroom Picker - isn’t so much in the tale that’s told, as the way it’s told. Not that the story of Penny Bun, a rare Porcini’s escape from the gluttonous reach of the mushroom picker isn’t artfully recounted - in rhyming couplets no less - but it is the accompanying luminograms depicting intriguing scenes of forest life and the night sky, pieced together from mushroom sections, that sets it apart.
When you know Robinson’s background, the somewhat surreal collision of ideas starts to make sense - a former advertising photographer with his own darkroom, he had tired of the commercial world by 2005 and set up Sporeboys, a mushroom-focused street kitchen, that travels around the markets of London, feeding weekend gastronomes a variety of fungi from cèpes to trompettes, with pecorino and parsley between two slices of bread. He also became a father around this time, and so his reading matter became heavily cut with illustrated children’s tales.
With a fridge full of mushrooms in his darkroom, the idea for using the fungi to create intricately constructed luminograms took shape. Cut mushroom pieces were arranged on the plate of an enlarger, and exposed to different light intensities. Using the likes of enoki and chanterelles as building blocks, Robinson has deftly managed to depict everything from woodlarks to a space rocket in his nightime scenes.
And if an original tale and arresting illustration isn’t enough of a draw, educative notes on finger-licking fungi, and untouchable varieties are also provided. The Mushroom Picker is destined to make fungi fans of us all.