Composing a Mushroom Print

Martha Stewart Living, November 2000

Subtle adjustments of subject and arrangement, the color of reproductive deposits and the shade of paper can make mushroom prints call to mind exotic or ordinary images, such as flapping undersea flowers or Sunday-morning bagels. Select your paper after making a test print, half on white, half on black paper, to determine the color of the spore deposit. Thin art papers or newsprint can rumple attractively from the moisture concentrated under the glass; colored art papers can marry your prints to a room's color scheme.

Study the compositions at left: Experimenting with combinations allows for surprising pictures, such as the planet and its faithful moon created by printing mushrooms of two different sizes. The embryonic shape, diaphanous structure, and creamy spores of an amanita make it a good solo subject; this one recalls a Surrealist photogram. Stacking mushrooms of one species, like broad portobellos, emphasizes subtle distinctions while suggesting a lush pattern. Small mushrooms such as lawn mower's -- their diminutive stature makes them invulnerable to mower blades -- are delicate images for treatment in the round. Natural deformity can add interest to the shape of a mushroom, and sometimes spray fixative results in an attractively wispy smudging of spores.

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