Portfolio: Clay Perry


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The Independent Culture

They resemble the still lifes of the Spanish masters Velazquez, Zurbaran and Cotán. But while these are no 16th- or 17th-century compositions, Clay Perry's photographs of Britain's heritage fruit and vegetables are just as sympathetic to their subject.

According to the horticultural historian Dr Toby Musgrave, whose texts run alongside Perry's shots in a new book, an extraordinary 96 per cent of our traditional fruit and veg disappeared in the past century as modern farming methods, industrialisation, legislation governing seed sales and the dominance of multinationals have made it ever-more difficult to come by seeds of many once-common non-hybrid varieties.

However, there has been a resurgent interest among the public in cultivating heritage varieties of late (aided by a relaxation in EU law on non-commercial seed sales), which in turn is good news for everyone: for heirloom vegetables contain a wealth of genetic material that could prove resistant to pests or diseases that might threaten mainstream crops in the future. Not to mention that many believe they taste better, too. All of which more than makes them worthy of the Old Master treatment.

'Heritage Fruits & Vegetables' is published by Thames & Hudson, priced £38. The book will have its official launch on 3 July at the Garden Museum, London SE1, (gardenmuseum.org.uk). Prints can be purchased from clayperry.co.uk