Coffee country seems to be flavour of the year among documentary photographers. A few months ago, Steve McCurry published From These Hands: A Journey Along the Coffee Trail (Phaidon), for which he travelled from the foothills of the Andes to the slopes of Kilimanjaro, through eight countries and four continents, to record landscape, labour and life away from the fields.
At the end of this month, Sebastião Salgado, a native of one of Brazil’s biggest coffee-growing regions, will present his own take on the trade — in black and white, as usual — in The Scent of a Dream: Travels in the World of Coffee (Abrams).
And today, Stuart Freedman — who’s a little younger than these veterans (he was born in London in 1967 and has been a photographer since 1991) — publishes The Palaces of Memory: Tales from the Indian Coffee House (Dewi Lewis), for which he visited more than 30 of a network of worker-owned cafes in cities throughout the subcontinent. The Coffee Houses, he says, “were an echo of the cafes — greasy spoons, really — that I grew up with in the Hackney of my childhood in east London. They spoke to me in a way of the faded hopes and dreams but also of the poetry and politics that were discussed. I always visit the one on College Street in Kolkata for the history and the one in Shimla for the impressive gathering of old men who will inevitably drag you to their table and invite your opinions on just about anything.” While he was still raising money for the project, he told the online journal Roads & Kingdoms what had inspired him.