Apples taste blue to me: Harry Flook challenges our intuitive experience of an object

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Individually, each image is a singular approach to depicting a red apple. Together, however, they address larger existential questions relating to consciousness, reality and truth

What is an apple? The question is simple, but the answer is not always so. An apple is typically red and round. But does the red of an apple exist outside of our own experience? An apple is crisp and sweet. But does everyone experience the same taste, or is it an illusion, distinct in each of our minds? An apple contains 50 billion cells, yet it forms a single object.

These conundrums form the basis of Harry Flook’s ongoing project, Apples Taste Blue to Me. Individually, the images question reality through multiple approaches to depicting the physicality of a red apple: up close, reflected, sliced up or smashed against a wall. Whether in form or theory, each image is distinct, almost as though they were created by different artists. Together, however, the images address larger existential questions relating to consciousness, reality and truth. Questions that arose from Flook’s religious upbringing and his departure from it.

The 25-year-old photographer was brought up in “a charismatic, Anglican, evangelical denomination of Christianity,” he says. “That was my world view, it was everything for me.” Flook began to experience doubts in his early teens, and by the age of 16, had abandoned that belief system entirely. “It was a destabilising time,” he says. “I spent years trying to make sense of some fundamental questions that have been unanswered since. Questions that were previously put in a ‘God box’.”

How does consciousness arise? What is reality? What can we really know about the world? The questions simmered in the back of Flook’s mind for years. In 2019, when he enrolled on the MA in photography course at the University of the West of England, Flook decided to explore his curiosity by photographing neuroscientists studying the root of human consciousness. When Covid-19 curtailed the project, Flook saw it as an opportunity to pivot in his practice and expand his image-making processes. Revisiting the questions that had consumed him for so long, he decided to direct them all towards one object. The red apple – a symbol with cultural, scientific and literary roots – felt like the apt choice. 

“Questions and answers aren’t the right format to get at these questions, because there can be a limit with language”

“It’s supposed to be tongue-in-cheek, absurd, playful. I’m not going to find any answers here, but there’s something interesting about trying, and just focusing everything onto one single object,” he says. Produced during the pandemic and entirely within the four walls of his home, the project is a result of “sitting in your bedroom reading too many books”, Flook jokes. He was informed by thinkers such as David Hume, Donald Hoffman and Douglas Hofstadter. “A whole mash of different stuff,” Flook says. “I was constantly feeding myself with these ideas, but none of them provided an answer in any real sense. They all have holes, they all conflict and contradict one another.” 

To allow for open interpretation, Flook deliberately refrains from referencing specific theories in the work. The project is his attempt to seek out the answers, while knowing it will never be that simple with such broad, ambiguous concepts. Flook points out that it was important to do this visually: “Questions and answers aren’t the right format to get at these questions, because there can be a limit with language,” he explains. “Of course, there’s a limit to images too, but you can pose answers in a different way. You can be more irreverent, and not try to offer a solution in one rigid approach.”

Marigold Warner

Marigold Warner joined the British Journal Photography in April 2018, and currently holds the position of Online Editor. She studied English Literature and History of Art at the University of Leeds, followed by an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London. Her work has been published by titles including the Telegraph Magazine, Huck, Gal-dem, Disegno, and the Architects Journal.