The MycoPhotography of Whitney Keene
“For me it is like Albert Einstein said ‘I have no special talent, I am only passionately curious.'”
~ Whitney Keene
Whitney’s Full Story Follows the Gallery
To open the gallery for larger sizing & higher quality presentation of her photography, click directly on the above photos.
Of Fungi & Photos: Whitney’s Story
My background is in food service but photography has always been part of my life. My dad worked under a German master of photography when he was stationed in the army in Germany. I grew up with him taking a lot of photos. It was only natural that I developed an interest in photography as well. Growing up, my father and I spent countless hours hiking and fishing in the mountains and he would almost always have his camera. He would stop to point out the way the light was hitting the trees or to observe certain peculiarities in nature, as he snapped away shots. He taught my sister and me to evaluate our surroundings and gave us guidelines for ‘making a picture’ (which I don’t always follow). My dad continues to teach me new things about photography and as we share a mutual enjoyment for the outdoors and photography; it is a hobby we often enjoy together.
I got my first “real” camera last October for my birthday. I asked my family and friends to donate money into a pool in place of presents so I could purchase a quality camera. With their donations I bought a Nikon D5100. Learning to use my camera to its full potential has been an ongoing challenge, but is one I take pleasure in. I take pictures of everything; I especially enjoy taking pictures of my daughter. Most recently, I’ve discovered that photographing mushrooms is an art form in itself.
I have always noticed the mushrooms in the woods while hiking, notably while I lived in Telluride, CO. It may sound very weird-but I think other mycophiles can relate- I’ve always sensed this presence from mushrooms, especially when alone in the forest. It’s like when you think you are alone in a place and suddenly you realize that your company is being shared. For example, noticing a deer that is, amidst surroundings that you had once perceived to be unoccupied, standing silently studying you.
“It may sound very weird-
But I think other mycophiles can relate-
I’ve always sensed this presence from mushrooms,
especially when alone in the forest.”
I’ve experienced this feeling several times- Perhaps these feelings stem from the mushrooms’ unusual appearances and fleshy nature that is so unlike plants or because they do ‘stand still’ in an unwavering manner when the trees around you may be blowing in the wind.
Michigan Morel Madness!
My interest in fungi really began a few years ago while living in Michigan. During morel season in Michigan people went crazy!! I worked at a fine dining restaurant in the city of Petoskey. The chefs featured a lot of different mushrooms on their menu- morels, chanterelles, enoki, shimemji, truffles and so on. I was always curious about the ‘shrooms. I would ask the chefs about them and often I would get to sample them in the chef’s wonderfully crafted dishes. In the spring foragers would come and sell their morels to the chef too. It seems like everyone in the area became obsessed with finding them. I went out a few times looking and even after reading up on successful foraging; I never found a single one. My boyfriend had better luck and even found some morels growing in our yard! We foraged wild leeks from the woods that surrounded our house and made a great meal with our finds.
Festivals, Forays, and New Friends
I moved back home to Colorado last September and had read that morels grew in Colorado too, especially in burn areas, which seemed to be everywhere since Colorado had had an intense fire season that summer. At this time, I was only motivated by my own tummy! Unfortunately, I never found any here either! My parents bought me a couple beginner’s mushroom books to aid me in my search. I was fascinated and read them cover to cover. I became so suddenly obsessed; it was like I had developed a fungal infection of the brain, one called mycophilia. While viewing the Telluride Mushroom Festival facebook page I saw a mycoremediation class being offered and explored the possibility of attending. I followed a link to Paul Stamets’ Fungi Perfecti website and I read all kinds of things about him and his work. I watched YouTube videos and lectures given by Paul and thought that it was all sooo cool! I mentioned the mycoremediation course at Telluride Mushroom Festival to my parents and over the weeks prior to the festival I read anything pertaining to fungi. I wanted more and more to go. It worked out that my parents could watch my daughter so I could attend the festival. During the festival I learned about mycoremediation and mycofiltration and all of the wonderful medicinal values fungi can offer the world. It is becoming more apparent, through studying fungi, that there are many sicknesses in the world that fungi can remedy. It was Sir Albert Howard that said ‘the health of soil, plant, animal and man is one and indivisible’. I have to say, so far, I’ve found that Mr. Gary Lincoff is on the right track when he says “Whatever the question-mushrooms are the answer!”
Futures with Fungi
Since the festival my fascination hasn’t wavered. I’ve networked with some very smart and experienced people in the field who have helped me with my mushroom hunting endeavors and identifications, as well as suggesting websites and books for me to look over.
I have learned an incredible amount just from reading my field guide and going out into the forest and working on identifications. I’ve read a lot of stuff on mykoweb.com and mushroomobserver.org. From the people I met at the Telluride Mushroom Festival and on the various mushroom forums I have joined, I have learned how to prepare and store the wild mushrooms I have foraged as well as made some great new friends!! As far as what I will do with my new and growing knowledge, I am not sure. I would like to take some college courses and attend some workshops in the future, but right now I am just so excited to have this this new hobby and passion. The field of mycology is so new and there is so much to learn and be discovered, with so many directions to take! I believe mycology is very important and I look forward to my future with fungi and helping to spawn good feelings toward fungi.