// Images and text by Tim Smyth //
I leave my flat at roughly 6:30 am. It’s Monday and I’m feeling rattled following a particularly self-indulgent weekend. I find solace however at my local bakery, “BREAKFAST BAP & TEA or COFFEE £ 2.00”. “Ketchup please… milk and one thanks”. The streets are still and quiet as I turn down Mildmay Grove South to the rental car club bay. A flock of geese fly south overhead in an arrow formation talking amongst themselves. “THE ARCTIC WEATHER CONDITIONS ALREADY CAUSING HAVOC ON BRITAINS ROADS” according to the radio news bulletin, as I head north on the M1 to a carrot farm in Yorkshire. Murky streaks of road salt have accumulated on my windscreen; the windscreen washer jets are broken on the rental car. There are queues for miles in the opposite lane heading south as I stop for petrol, expensive burnt coffee and tobacco, hot water, and toilet paper to wash the windscreen.
Some time later I pull into a lay-by opposite a sublime view point of Eggborough Power Station and call the farmer, Guy, to ask for directions; we arrange to meet once he has finished his lunch. In the sun drenched reception of the farm I am greeted by gleeful caricatures of dancing carrots on the walls. Guy and Jerry take me through to a small conference room to talk about the premise of my visit. I tell them I want to photograph the carrots that, due to their abnormal appearance, fail to be stocked in the supermarket chain that they supply. He explains to me the pressures of consumer requirements on the farm, how they are improving their efficiency of production with many “defective” carrots being grated, sliced and packaged for sale in supermarkets. Any others are used as animal feed. I ask him for any official information that he can print or send to me for further reference. However this isn’t possible due to the sensitive nature of these documents, and any other queries I have he will answer via email. I thank him for his time and assure him that I won’t say anything bad about supermarkets.
Jerry fetches me a hairnet and high-vis jacket, then gives me a tour of the farm and shows me the factory. There is a consistent, overpoweringly sweet smell of carrots in the air. He shows me the factory and the machinery used to grade the carrots. Steel cylinders parallel to one another, at various distances, allow the carrots to fall through at different intervals determining their girth. Digital cameras photograph the carrots as they are winged along brightly lit conveyor belts; the defective carrots detected by the cameras are subsequently ejected with a whip of pressurised air. In the corner of the factory there is a small conveyor belt that ascends from ground level to the rafters carrying the defective carrots. I begin collecting these carrots into plastic bags. Initially I choose ones with blatant deformities, idiosyncrasies that appeal to me. Then I realise many of them don’t appear peculiar at all, so I start collecting them. Jerry begins to help bagging the carrots, whilst shouting in my ear through the din of the machinery, recitals of the different names of rot and disease they have. I become increasingly fond of each carrot regardless of how moderate or extreme its defect.
Jerry helps me take the carrots to my car as the daylight fades. I set off back to London. “EXTREME ARCTIC WEATHER… GRIT SHORTAGES IN NOVEMBER!” Drivers are advised not to make any unnecessary journeys. Somewhere along the M1 I stop for something to eat, a Large Big Mac Meal is alluring when you’re feeling weary and far from anywhere.
Back in London I individually photograph each carrot with the intention of replicating scale and colour as accurately as possible. I measure the frame of the image in the viewfinder, 12” long to correspond with the print size. The following day, due to the lack of space in my flat and fridge freezer, I take the carrots to Hackney City Farm to fulfil their destiny as pig feed.
A few weeks later I meet my mum for lunch at a tapas restaurant in London Bridge. I show her a test print of a defective carrot. She shows the waiter and asks for his opinion. As he pours the wine for me to taste and check for corkage, he looks perplexed. He replies that he would never buy a carrot that looked like that.
One Hundred and Thirty Nine Defective Carrots is a collection of 139 unique 16×12” C types hand printed by Tim Smyth. Smyth currently lives and works in London where he is represented by Son Gallery. Engaging with environmental issues and the documentary rhetoric, Smyth’s work is distinctive for its considered attention to detail, taking advantage of large format cameras. His gripping abstract visualisations are a product of industrial and consumer waste.
// www.timsmyth.co.uk //