The blog of Tokyo based photographer and photojournalist, Damon Coulter

It`s all covered in mud

Back in the real world which of course means I am busier than it is humanly possible to be. My shooting time is down to zero pretty much at the moment but hopefully I will get out some evenings next week for a bit of shutter clicking. Of course the days are short now that Autumn has arrived and it is dark by the time I might be free but I like night photography so not all bad. The light in the mornings is lovely this time of year however and I wish I could go out an enjoy it. But mornings are out of the question: I am just too fully booked with family and “day” job.

You may remember a few months ago I wrote about the international year of the potato photo competition. Well the winners have now been announced and there is some good work there. The professional first prize went to Eitan Abromovich for an essay from Peru – the home of the potato –  and there are some beautiful images that capture the Potato`s natural environment well. Most interesting to to me though is the third place winner Victor Drachev with his Belarus soldiers harvesting and eating potatoes whilst on military exercise. To me this essay has something of the intrisic ridiculousness found in honouring potatoes. All these heavily armed and well trained soldiers picking, peeling and eating potatoes with serious faces, to my mind, shows how important and how funny they really are. I mean photographing what is essentially a lump of mud when it first comes out of the ground is no mean task, you need to have some context and that context has to entertain you. Victor`s essay does that well and the east European countryside is very emotive, more so even than the Andian hills in Eitan`s entry.

It is difficult to photograph potatoes, I know, I had a chance a couple of weekends ago when an itchy shutter finger made me take my camera out to capture one of first traditions of a Japanese Autumn. Many communities, at this time of year, organise a trip out to a local farm to dig up sweet potatoes. Of course it`s all for the kids who love getting dirty in the mud but it`s not bad fun for grown-ups too. Luckily for me I live on the edges of Tokyo`s suburbia and we are surrounded my fields one of which was opened to us by a local farmer who had marked out plots for each kid. After some megaphone directions from mothers and farmers, the Japanese love megaphones, my sons and many of the other neighbourhood kids could get digging. It is great for the kids to see their food harvested this way, real hands on and to discover those large red tubers under the soil, feel around to find their size and dig them free is really satifying. It is something many kids in other developed countries never get to experience; indeed I can imagine kids in England betting turned off the food by finding it so muddy and organic.

But here the kids will and do eat anything and each new discovery was greated with shouts and shows of pride. Of course their was a contest to see who could find the biggest potato and I am proud to announce that my son, Taku, won third place with a potato almost bigger than him. After the prize giving and some eating and drinking in a local park we played games until it was dark. A good day out in all.

The pictures are above are a local boy with his pride and joy potato and a moment from the weigh-in for the king of potatoes.

Got to go to work now..bye!



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