Beautiful Vegetable Portraits: Lynn Karlin’s Pedestal Series

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Study in Purples, from "The Pedestal Series" by Lynn Karlin, available in her 2016 Simply Raw calendar.
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‘Stump of the World’ Tomato, from The Pedestal Series.
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Tender Eggplants, from The Pedestal Series.
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‘Tango’ Celery, from The Pedestal Series.
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‘Bishop’ Cauliflower, from The Pedestal Series.
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‘Watermelon’ Radish, from The Pedestal Series.
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‘Orion’ Fennel, from The Pedestal Series.
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‘D’Avignon’ Radishes, from The Pedestal Series.
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Late Summer Still Life (‘Alvaro’ Melon, ‘Golden Gate’ Pole Beans, ‘Flying Saucer’ Patty Pan Summer Squash), from The Pedestal Series.
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‘Concord’ Grapes & Figs, from The Pedestal Series.
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‘Summercrisp’ Pears, from The Pedestal Series.
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Savoy Cabbage & Garlic Plants, from The Pedestal Series.
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Draped Squash Blossoms, from The Pedestal Series.
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‘Black Futsu’ Squash, from The Pedestal Series.

Gardeners are inspired to grow their own vegetables for a variety of reasons: food purity, food security, family and cultural traditions, fresh flavors, stress relief, improved nutrition, and many more. Our tomatoes grow sweet with lip-smacking flavor, but also heavy with intent and purpose.

Certainly, identifying your own incentives is critical to making it through the darkness of winter, flush of spring weeds, and stifling summer heat to, ultimately, the bounty of the harvest season. In the elegant vegetable portraits presented on these pages, photographer Lynn Karlin brings an oft-overlooked motivation to light: reverence for beauty.

These works are part of “The Pedestal Series,” in which Karlin, quite literally, elevates the harvest. With an eye attuned to elegance where most people see utility, she ratifies the radish and champions the cabbage.

The project started with a rather innocent (but much maligned) vegetable: cauliflower. “Most people don’t really look at, or see beauty in, vegetables,” Karlin says. “At the local farmers market, I became entranced by a purple cauliflower still encased in its stalks and leaves. I brought it home, placed it up high on a white pedestal by an east-facing window, and photographed it.”

Karlin’s models are unique — and not only because of their species. She seldom retouches the produce. “I photograph the vegetables as soon as I get back to the studio. They are as I found them — hours from harvest.” Seven years and 100-plus vegetable portraits later, Karlin still finds the project engaging.“It’s a simple way to express my commitment to local, sustainable agriculture and to celebrate the seasons.”

Whether you’re a potato-based philosopher or a hoe-handling utilitarian, let these vegetable portraits serve as a simple reminder: Grow with gratitude and honor the small wonders of your garden and harvest.

Award-winning garden and food photographer Lynn Karlin lives in Belfast, Maine, and often discovers models at her local farmers markets. Her pedestal portraits are available as limited-edition prints online, and in her 2016 Simply Raw calendar from Amber Lotus Publishing. MOTHER EARTH NEWS editor Laura Dell-Haro studies and writes about the domestic and wild fruits growing in her Great Plains gardens.

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