“Pay attention to the apple,” says Thich Nhat Hanh, and you will see “the appleseed, the beautiful orchard, the sky and the farmer, the picker.” If every fruit is a story, then every unopened fruit is a secret. To crack one open is a sensual discovery; flesh rips, juice stains the fingers, insides are picked apart and eaten.
Filmmaker-photographers Victoria Rivera and Soren Nielsen see the fruit for the seeds. The New York-based duo are the creators of FOUND FRUIT, an ongoing photo series documenting a (literal) cross-section of fruit—the uncommon, the mysterious—from their travels. The images come in pairs, the fruit whole and then halved with precision, and the location discernible in the background. We caught up with the fruit finders in between their travels to ask them a few questions about the project.
How did FOUND FRUIT start? Which countries have you documented fruit from?
The project started in Colombia, where Victoria is from, documenting some of our favorite South American fruit that we rarely see in the U.S.. FOUND FRUIT continued to grow while we traveled through Southeast Asia, documenting fruit in Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. It’s an ongoing project that we’ll build upon as we continue to travel.
Are there any stipulations for the fruit that you’ve chosen? Are there some fruit that don’t make the cut?
As we move from one place to another we make it our mission to seek out local food markets, and pick fruit that is unfamiliar to us, visual, and exciting. The best part is the first bite!
You record the fruit in their native names and language. How come?
The fruit we choose is just as important as the place we find it in, hence the project name “Found Fruit”. The language is a record of where we find each fruit and an ode to that country.
What do you love about the fruit markets you’ve visited?
The markets are always our favorite stop. They’re uniquely local, loud and vibrant. You can get a real taste for regional delicacies and everyday life, and getting there always provides an interesting adventure.
Have you learned about or explored the ways in which the fruits are prepared or eaten? Any in particular that interested you?
So many preparations it’s probably a project in itself! Especially desserts, which are our favorite. One of our favorite preparations was Buah Naga, the fuchsia dragonfruit from Indonesia. It’s served as a slush in a bowl, like the popular Acai bowl here in New York, and—also like the Acai bowl—is said to have incredible health benefits.
What’s your first step in cracking open a piece of fruit you’ve never encountered before?
Usually we begin by having an unsuccessful conversation with the locals attempting to to explain what we were doing, followed by careful dissection with a sharp pocket knife that we always carry with us.
How has the project affected your travel experiences?
If it’s offered to you, eat it.
Which fruit were your favorite? Which were the most surprising?
Quà Gàc was by far our biggest surprise when we sliced it open. It’s the red spiky one with the scarlet red pods inside. The texture of the pods were that of an avocado and they stained your skin like lipstick, it’s beautiful! As for taste, it’s a long list, but Mangosteen is always at the top!
What has been your favorite travel moment / memory that involved local fruit?
Picture the hottest day of the summer and double it. We were hiking some hefty hills in northern Thailand and breakfast was seeming like a distant memory. Water was scarce. We spotted a papaya tree with a beautifully ripe, perfect single fruit that had our name on it. The fruit was sliced and eaten before we could even take a photo.
Do you take submissions? What’s next for FOUND FRUIT?
We always love it when people suggest new fruits to us, but because of the nature of our process, we try to keep each of the images in the series consistent. As for the project itself, we’re choosing the next corner of the world to explore and document!