Photographing everything about cider has been Bill Bradshaw’s hobby-slash-obsession for about nine years. It began when the Somerset-based photographer was offered £50 to document a Lottery-funded project to teach local schoolchildren about the county’s apple heritage. Where it will end is less clear. It’s already taken him across Wales, to Asturias in northern Spain, to Brittany, Germany and to the US, but he’s set his sights further afield.
“There are two belts around the world where you can grow apples and I’ve got a theory that in any of those places you’re going to find something cider related,” he says. “I’d love to just go round that belt – places like China, Kazakhstan – and discover them. Because I’m sure they’re there. They must be. The Chinese are big drinkers, and I know they’re going to start getting into cider.”
“People say: ‘Oh, you do cider photography. Well, how much of that can you really do? It’s just a glass of cider.’ And it’s not. It’s everything around it.”
Bradshaw began collating his cider images a little over a year ago, on his blog IAMCIDER. The name reflects not so much his own relationship with cider, but the sense of gathering a record of the people and customs that together make up a community. “Cider is like a church, or a cult,” Bradshaw says.
“It has a hardcore following that will never die. It does sound funny, but that’s kind of what it is.” He adds: “There’s something warming about the cider world, something instinctive or visceral about it. I’ve felt it, and my response with the camera was my way of trying to capture that feeling.”
Here, he talks Hot Rum Cow through some of his favourite shots.
Please Ring For Cider
“This is an image that really seems to appeal – when people see a print of it they always want to push the bell. Like most of my cider images, it’s pretty straight up, basic photography. I like the peely paint, the brickwork, the mishmash of textures. The phrase itself is emotive and together they sum up the cider world well.”
“The cider world is full of legends like Frank Naish. He’s been dubbed Britain’s oldest cider maker, which he may very well be. I’d been trying to contact him for months to arrange to photograph him but having had no luck, decided to risk a trip over and hope for the best. I found him in his kitchen repairing an antique clock.”
“Sometimes with photography, a sequence of photos works like a comic strip, allowing you to follow the action. Here, this young Asturian boy, Nel, is practising throwing his cider, which is the traditional Asturian method of serving it. I love how he stands and watches respectfully in the first shot, how he’s really concentrating in the second, his realisation in the third, and the pride and joy of the fourth. It’s lovely and neatly summarises Asturians and their attitude towards cider.”
“If you regularly handle the pulp of cider apples, the high levels of tannins leave a strong trace on your hands, turning all the creases and cracks on your skin black. It looks really dramatic, especially in contrast to a wedding ring. When I arrived at Hecks [Somerset farmhouse cider makers], I asked Chris Hecks if I could see his hands. Taking off his gloves he said, in his soft Somerset accent, ‘You don’ really want to see those ‘orrible things do ee …?’ I did.”
“This was shot in my back garden at sunset one autumn night. I wanted to capture the atmosphere and romance of apples and had recently started playing with silhouettes again for the first time since college. I love this image.”
Apple Day Dive
“It never ceases to amaze me the effect multiples of anything have on kids – it brings out their innate sense of freedom and play. This really sums that up for me, its a very ‘cider’ kind of fun.”
“I’ve been told that this has become an iconic image in the cider world and, to some extent, it may have. I just wanted an image that captured my excitement and passion for cider and happened to stumble upon this one day. I was lucky.”
Win a signed print
If you like Bill Bradshaw’s cider photography as much as we do, here’s your opportunity to get your hands on your own signed print.