Afterlife: Making rotten food beautiful

Most people have pulled long-forgotten vegetables from their refrigerator’s depths at least once, and just the memory is enough to make a stomach turn. But one man’s fridge mould is another man’s still life. Estonian artist, Heikki Leis’ Afterlife is a veritable rotting cornucopia of vegetables photographed long past their prime.

“I was inspired by some potatoes I had once left out in a pot for too long. They had started to mould and on closer examination the colours and textures looked interesting enough to take some photos,” says Leis.

Leis then started experimenting with various fruits and vegetables. He sometimes let them decay for two months, keeping them covered so they wouldn’t dry out.

Leis said he’d be open to an expert’s analysis of his rotting concoctions, so Wired invited mycologist Kathie Hodge of Cornell University, who’s working on a book about food-decaying fungi, to look at the work.

There are thousands of moulds out there, and “we see them all the time and yet we don’t look at them. They live with us and we automatically throw these things out,” said Hodge, who took Wired on a tour of Leis’ mouldy world, though not without a warning.

“Moulds look gross from a distance but close up they have a beautiful and highly-organised structure. They’re very efficient at what they do.” View these extraordinary photographs here