Kudzu stimulates the imagination in Asheville, NC

I first encountered pueraria montana, better known by the common name of kudzu, while on a photo assignment for Pierce in August of 1998. I flew into Memphis and drove up Interstate 240/69 on my way to the Gilt Edge Fire Department. I was fascinated while looking at the foliage along the highway. There was this incredible, vine like plant that had grown over everything it’s path … trees, road signs, utility poles … everything. And, the cool thing about it was you could discern everything that was covered because the invasive vines adhered to the shape of the host item. I’d never seen anything like it and thought it would make an incredible visual as a backdrop for the brand new, shiny, red fire truck.

When I arrived at the fire station and told them of my idea for the photo, I received a very serious stare down and swift refusal. They were not going to showcase their new truck in front of kudzu. I had no idea they had such a distaste for the plant.

They told me of it’s origin, brought from Asia and planted all over to contain erosion before anyone knew that it was to be an unstoppable force that could neither be contained nor eradicated.

So, we did the shot along the Mississippi River …

That being said, though I’m grateful that we don’t have kudzu in Chicago, I still find it fascinating from an artistic perspective.

On assignment last fall in Asheville, NC, I stopped to get some images of a small kudzu patch while scouting a location for a truck shoot. The shapes and formations can open the mind to many interpretations and explanations of what is seen. Perhaps akin to a large Rorschach test?

Pueraria montana or kudzu in Asheville NC
Trees and bushes covered in kudzu in Asheville, NC with the city hall in the background. Larry Shapiro photo
Pueraria montana or kudzu in Asheville NC
I can see hooded creatures and a large animal in the kudzu covered field. It almost looks like creatures that would be in a scene from Star Wars. Larry Shapiro photo

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