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MUSHROOMS
Text by Miranda Gavin

Alongside flora and fauna, fungi possess a kingdom of their own and are essential in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. It is to this realm that photographer and filmmaker Roy Mehta turns his attention.

As he forays in his local forest, Mehta lights the miniature worlds that he chances upon in his woodland scenes to highlight their sculptural forms and subtle shading. Expressed through the personal and intuitive, Mehta’s series of photos emphasizes aesthetics and wonder and, as such, they are removed from the sober taxonomical approach found in flower and plant photographs used in field identification books.

The images are quiet and reflective. In Mehta's vision the gentle, often overlooked theatricality and character of each unearthed mushroom is accentuated by the artful use of light and depth of field. Some are depicted in troupes, like bit-part players or extras cast in crowd scenes. Others are singled out, majestic and mysterious. Here are the protagonists of mystical eco-dramas played out against a natural backdrop in flux.

A river of burnished Sulphur Tufts (Hypholoma fasciculare) cascade down a fallen tree trunk. Gregarious and tightly-packed, they devour rotting wood. Fragrant Aniseed Toadstools (Clitocybe odora) push from beneath the earth, changing colour from pale blue to light grey as their concave caps expand. A close family member, the Clouded Agaric (Clitocybe nebularis), tilts its undulating cap to the light, and a group of Butter Caps (Collybia butyracea) bursts through the leaf litter, dwarfed by young bramble. It is as if scale has collapsed and the viewer has entered a magical domain.

The work finds some inspiration in the illustrations and photographs produced by Victorian botanists who recorded the appearance of the diverse species they collected with great care and in minute detail.