Many people may be able to relate to what it feels like to be fascinated – maybe with a person, a sport, a film, some obscure topic or even your best fine China. Human curiosity knows no boundaries! Something seemingly plain and simple can be transformed into something full of wonder in our mind’s eye. So, it should come as no surprise that talented photographers like Bill Bradshaw and Eric Lewandowski have found themselves in a state of awe, pursuing the mystery and the beauty of the craft and culture of cider-making.
We have been captivated by the beauty and genuine nature of their work, as well as their forthcoming and warm personalities. The cider industry is not just about the cider makers and drinkers. With at least a thousand years of history, the world of cider contains many players and many aspects that may not be at first obvious. This article is about two of those players. They are different in many ways, but they share a passion and an ability to bring the cider world to life for others through their craft. If you’re interested in high-end, cider-inspired art, then read on.
If you are into real cider, Bill Bradshaw is one of the first names in the industry you will come across. His contribution is impossible to overlook. However, his cider related photography is probably somewhat less known to the average cider drinker. His dreamy images, inspired by the lush greens of orchards and countryside, the tools and processes involved in the production of cider, and the characters and customs that comprise the culture, can be found on his blog, in his books and all over his instafeed.
Eric Lewandowski, in contrast, is someone whose art serves as his introduction to the world. The craft cider scene worldwide is thriving, yet aesthetic and high-end photography are somewhat lacking. Eric’s cider apple inspired work stands out on Instagram like a beautiful swan amongst hundreds of ugly ducklings. We were following Eric across the Internet for a while until we finally felt it was time to make contact. We really wanted to understand why apples, why cider and what does the future hold?
Bill is a well seasoned cider connoisseur from Somerset, in the heart of English cider country. He’s an active international cider judge and author. In an interesting turn of fate, it was Bill’s photography work that was the catalyst for his emergence as a cider celebrity. It is a true story of one passion meeting another and evolving into something greater than even Bill couldn’t have foreseen.
Frank, 2016 by Bill Bradshaw ©
We are big fans of Bill’s work. His work is pleasing to the eye, captivating the viewer and eliciting emotional states in a way that only highly skilled photographers seem to be able to do. His pictures have feeling and prompt questions and wonder in the mind of the viewer. They tell stories of rich cultural heritage, community and craftsmanship, and show a fascination for the alchemy-like cider-making process.
We were lucky to capture Bill on film, sharing the roots of his fascination with cider-making during a presentation to the Australian craft cider makers. We hope you enjoy the story as much as we enjoy sharing it.
If you would like to learn more about Bill and his perspective on Australian cider, have a look at our recent post Cider Consultant Bill Bradshaw On The Definition of Craft, Cider Culture & Judging Australia’s Best Ciders.
Keep an eye out at the blog as we have more posts featuring Bill to come. In these he will cover the state of play for the cider industry in the UK, as well as noteworthy stories about cider culture, community and events.
Eric studied Art and Photography at Massachusetts College of Art and Design in the US, followed by a Postgrad in Architecture and Sustainable Design from Boston Architectural College. He has been involved with the arts ever since, but it was his love for the outdoors that took him out of the dark development room and into the world of agriculture.
It all started with a few illustrations of vegetables for a local fundraiser in 2012. Encouraged to keep it up by the community, Eric continued to illustrate. The discovery of a mysterious, odd looking apple in Harvard University’s Arboretum, near his home, sparked his interest. Through his research, and play with a friend’s cider press, he became further acquainted with the art and science of cider making. This was the beginning of Eric’s “cider awakening”.
Around this time Mark Darley, a retired interior and architectural photographer turned cider enthusiast, noticed his work. Eric was commissioned to create a poster illustration of cider apple varieties. For those of you who have tried to find such apples in Australia, it will come as no surprise to find that they are quite rare in the US as well, and certainly not available in the local supermarket. This project set Eric on a journey of discovery, where he photographed and illustrated a poster’s worth of rare cider apple fruit. The illustration not only depicts the various apple varieties but also groups them by their taste profile. This makes it a great source of information for both cider makers and cider connoisseurs alike. Eric sells prints online, however, these are not yet available for postage to Australia. We hope this will change in near future.
Another great illustration of Eric’s is of the Heirloom apple varieties.
These apples have served as a great source of inspiration for him, to the extent that he has created a dedicated webpage exhibiting his full apple illustration portfolio.
Eric’s interest in apples didn’t end with the illustrations. Upon entering the world of craft cider he began to meet people from all corners of the US – from cider makers and apple growers to authors, cider gene-repository curators and academics. This opened up plenty of opportunities to photograph more of the cider world. The people, the orchards and, of course, the fruit. As his reputation has grown in the cider world, Eric now works with individual cider makers to develop their branding and labels. With cider trying to find its place in the world again, and new cider makers entering commercial production all the time, strong brand identities are vital to engage consumers. Eric’s passions for cider and aesthetics have allowed him to create something that benefits him, and the people who make the products he cares so much about.
Foraging for wild apples in New York state, 2016 by Eric Lewandowski ©
Our conversation with Eric highlighted some of the interesting characters and developments in the US cider scene. One such character is that of the “Apple Whisperer”. As well as this enigmatic title, John Bunker is also referred to as the “Apple Guy” and “The Apple Guru”. He is the author of Not Far From the Tree: A Brief History of the Apples and the Orchards of Palermo Maine, 1804-2004.
His story is remarkable, to say the least. Intrigued by the abundance of interesting apples he came across in his home state of Maine, he embarked on a journey to track and document all the native, pre-industrial era apple varieties in the area. It turned out that while hundreds of apple varieties were once available and farmed in the US, the commercial production picked a few favourites and the rest were largely forgotten. In a strange way, John Bunker is to apples what the biblical Noah was to animals. He collected knowledge, illustrations and samples of nearly extinct apple species and brought them back into the spotlight. His obsession turned him into a bit of a celebrity, and people in the area are known to bring him fruit from ancient trees for identification.
Franklin County Cider Days, Apex Orchards, Shelburne Falls, MA, 2015 by Eric Lewandowski ©
The second story highlights the focus on cider apple varieties in the US. People sharing the passion for cider over there are keen to collaborate with each other, and are supported with government funding.
Much like in Australia, cider apple varieties are in high demand and short supply in the US. However, the US seem to be further forward with their support for the industry, with government grants set up to help promote it and state departments actively involved in the preservation and development of cider fruit.
The Unites States Department of Agriculture gene repository for apples in Geneva, NY, had caught Eric’s attention. The USDA have more than six thousand varieties of apples- the perfect playground for a highly skilled apple photographer. Eric contacted the curator Thomas Chow and booked an appointment to photograph the old cider apple varieties, which would otherwise be almost impossible to find.
By pure coincidence, the Finger Lakes Cider Festival, located next to the repository, happened to be on the same weekend that Eric was travelling in that direction . This is where Eric met a number of people, among them Gregory Peck, an Assistant Professor in the School of Integrative Plant Science at Cornell University. The focus of Peck’s work is to increase the production of value-added, fruit-based products in sustainably grown orchards. This includes cider, and there is government funding that is used to support the industry to help achieve this.
Like Bill, Eric’s passion for photography has connected him to issues he is passionate about, and has been the catalyst to him creating a life that brings these passions together, with fantastic results. If there is a lesson in the story of these two photographers, it seems that following your passion really can have bigger benefits than you might imagine.
For a quick access to John Bunker’s Not Far From the Tree: A Brief History of the Apples and the Orchards of Palermo Maine, 1804-2004 on Amazon, click below:
Have a look at Bill Bradshaw’s co-authored book World’s Best Ciders: Taste, Tradition, and Terroir also on Amazon: