A new film considers how mycelium and mushrooms have created an often-unseen network, similar to an underground internet, that has connected all living beings for the last 3.5 billion years. Featuring conversations with food journalist Eugenia Bone, mycologist Paul Stamets, and writer Michael Pollan, Fantastic Fungi: The Magic Beneath Us dives into how the diverse underground web creates the soil necessary for plants and trees to root. “It’s amazing what we don’t know about mushrooms. They really are a frontier of knowledge,” Pollan says in the film.
Fantastic Fungi explores seven benefits of the organisms, including those dealing with biodiversity, innovation, food, arts, and mental, physical, and spiritual health. Screenings are scheduled worldwide through February 2020. Follow updates on the film directed by Louie Schwartzberg and the broader fungi movement on Instagram. (Thnx, Laura!)
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Photographer Alison Pollack’s subject of choice is usually hiding in plain sight. To find the minuscule but magnificent fungi and Myxomycetes that she shares on @marin_mushrooms, Pollack drops down to hands and knees with a magnifying glass. “The smaller they are, the more challenging they are to photograph, but I absolutely love the challenge,” Pollack tells Colossal. “My goal is to show people the beauty of these tiny treasures that are all around the forest but barely visible unless you look very very closely.”
Pollack, who is a mathematician by training and “computer geek” by trade (she is now retired from an environmental consulting career), relishes the technical and creative challenges of being a self-taught photographer. She seeks to create compelling artistic beauty with her images while also depicting scientific details in sharp focus. Pollack explains that focus stacking allows her to capture the depth and texture of her small subjects, sometimes incorporating upwards of one hundred photos to create a single image.
To increase the breadth and depth of her discoveries, Pollack travels nationally—and sometimes abroad—to find more fungi and Myxomycetes during her native California’s dry season. She also invests in relationships with other mushroomers, attending weekend gatherings to learn from her peers. “I would love to be able to travel more to different parts of the world to look for and photograph mushrooms and myxos,” Pollack tells Colossal. “Australia and New Zealand, and tropical regions, have mushrooms and myxos that really call to me, and I hope to be able to travel to those areas some day. But every walk in my local woods is a mycelial adventure!”
You can explore more of Pollack’s previous fungi finds on Colossal and follow along with her latest discoveries via Instagram. Pollack also offers prints of her photographs; if interested, contact her on Instagram as well.
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