I believe that if one fathoms deeply one’s own neighbourhood and the everyday world in which he lives, the greatest of worlds will be revealed.
I recently came across this quote in a beautiful book by Maya Ward, “the comfort of water”. Maya and I worked together for many years as part of the Dream team for the Return of the Kingfisher Festival, an annual community celebration at CERES Environment Park in Brunswick. It really spoke to me about this potato project.
People ask me how I came up with the idea to put photos of people on potatoes, and while the answer is partly -I don’t know- where does inspiration come from?… I can track a meandering pattern of thought and musings on potatoes which happened over many months, and might give some explanation….
I moved to Trentham four years ago, a small township in the Victorian Central Highlands, enveloped by the Wombat Forest and potato farms. Living and gardening in Trentham, I am constantly unearthing potatoes, my chooks dig them up, they are lying on the ground under bushes- I didn’t plant them, they are just everywhere in the earth here! Ours neighbours tell us this was an old market garden many years ago. Long days spent gardening with my young son who loves to dig and get grubby, and seeing his exuberant joy at discovering another potato! A lot of the potatoes were strange and bizarre shapes- not like the rounded earthy orbs in the markets and shops. These potatoes have arms, and heads and noses. I am surrounded by them and entranced by their form and inherent comedy- like small people and faces from the earth.
I made a character for Spudfest last year- Mrs P Tati, and Potatoboy (a puppet with a potato head) who I just adore. I’d been thinking about a bigger project that would involve the whole community in a celebration of the potato harvest season. Puppets of course, and as Spudfest already had a photography competition and there are lots of talented and enthusiastic photographers in town, something that somehow combined photography. I’d been thinking of those old photos you see with everyone in town, lined up at some event or out the front of the town hall. Wondering how I could get a photo of everyone in town, all together, would I photoshop potatoes on their faces? But impossible to get everyone together… For a while I’d been thinking of projecting photos onto the potatoes, using washed potatoes as a screen…. Sometime after this, I came across the fabulous images of painted potatoes by artist Ginou Choueiri whose work is just beautiful, check it out here. This was a real AHa! moment for me- recognising a kindred spirit- someone else who sees faces in potatoes! I remembered a patchwork bag my mum had made a few years ago where she had printed photos onto fabric and then pieced them together. And I remembered the obsession some friends and I had many years ago with temporary tattoos. After some research, and finding the perfect transfer product, the idea for Mrs P Tati’s Super Potato Photo Booth and the Great Trentham Portrait of Community was born!