The four seasons of Miki Prunes

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The Context

Originally, this project started as a yearlong assignment to document four seasons in MIKI’s California orchards. Dean Tokuno set out to produce the base material, taking thousands of photographs, literally, over a 14-month period.

Being a farmer’s son and a farmer himself, Tokuno knew where to look. Being a consummate artist, and an award-winning photographer, he also knew how to make it come alive through still photography. After scouring the MIKI orchards he ended up recording much, much more than the ins and outs of prune growing. Through close-ups, unusual shots, odd angles and eerie natural lighting, he captured the actual atmosphere of life on a prune farm, more often than not eliciting poetry from the intricate–and seemingly mundane–activities involved in growing, harvesting and processing prunes.

The project

Upon witnessing the quality of Tokuno’s work, MIKI commissioned Monkey & Snake to develop a high-end brand image concept.

A while later, Monkey & Snake suggested creating an exceptional set of four books–one per season–depicting every stage of plum growing and harvesting. The idea was to convey the depth and breadth of MIKI’s operations in California with a sophisticated, upper-scale “corporate gift” that would position the corporation’s means while functioning as a quasi-subliminal quality value statement.

MIKI managers were more than happy with the idea.

Ariel and Dean then tackled the daunting task of sifting through Tokuno’s 25,000 photographs, handpicking the 400 or so photographs that made up the final product, a drastic selection process that led, as Ariel put it, to ”heartbreaking choices”. It was Ariel’s job to produce a layout that would give a rhythm to the various sequences while highlighting the intrinsic beauty of each shot.

MIKI resolved that the pictures deserved the best printing job. After studying tenders from all over the world–France, the USA, Germany, Italy, Hong Kong, Singapore–the two partners selected Cantz Druckerie GmbH, a printer based in Stuttgart, Germany. Among the best in the world, Cantz does exhibition catalogs for museums and galleries, and high-end corporate brochures.

The resulting product, presented in a slipcase, amply qualifies for the Fine Arts category because of its poetic overtones and the mastery displayed by Tokuno’s work. Ten thousand book sets–40,000 books in all–were printed, which is an unusually large press run for a fine art photography book.

The MIKI books were packed into 51 pallets that filled 2 containers and were loaded on the Maersk Tanjong, which left Bremerhaven, Germany, arriving in Osaka, Japan, on December 1st, 2008. The total MIKI project weighed in at 31 tons.

Within three months, more than 6,000 sets had been distributed, offered as gifts to a select group of MIKI clients, partners and prospects. MIKI Corporation eventually asked the two Monkey & Snake partners to participate in its 2009 convention as feature guest speakers. “Four seasons of MIKI Prune” has undoubtedly contributed to enhance the company’s brand image–and it still does.

Thanks to the timeless quality of its images and production, it is bound to become a collector’s item.