The images that make up Aliza Eliazarov’s Waste Not series are stunning. They are also somber, a tone that seems only fitting given their subject matter. Eliazarov is tackling the massive issue of food waste, after all, and she’s doing it in The Land of Plenty, where we waste up to 40 percent of the food that we produce.
In photographs that capture everything from browning fruit to day-old bread to imperfect tubers, Eliazarov references dramatic seventeenth- and eighteenth-century still life paintings of food, in which, as she puts it, “food is really elevated to this place of reverence and made into art.” There’s a secondary layer to the reference as well: Back in the 1800s, before the Industrial Revolution, food was not quite as abundant, and food waste wasn’t really a thing.
The young, New York City-based photographer has long been drawn to issues pertaining to our food system, but she points to one experience in particular as inspiration for this project: an assignment with a freegan (someone who salvages wasted food and other goods in order to minimize their impact on the environment) who was rescuing food and laying it out on the streets of New York City, speaking with people about the food as they walked by. “Being a witness to the conversations that the freegan was having with passersby was really inspiring and activating for me,” she says. “From that experience I started seeking out how to create a body of work that would illuminate the food waste issue.”
Eliazarov ended up becoming something of a part-time freegan herself. While she was working on the photo series, she utilized online freegan directories to locate discarded food, and picked up things she happened upon while roaming around her neighborhood. She didn’t shy away from the messy side of the work — dumpster diving was a frequent part of recovering wasted items.
After rescuing the food, Eliazarov would take it home, style it, and photograph it. Then she would cook and eat it. She made apple crisp, apple pie, and apple sauce. She made banana bread. She made bread crumbs. “That was part of the process,” she says.
As part the project, Eliazarov has also photographed London-based chef Dan Barber’s food waste pop-up restaurant, and explored the work of gleaners as they collect leftover crops.
Eliazarov says the ongoing project has changed the way she sees food. And by capturing “the beauty and the magic of food that is being wasted,” she hopes that she’s changing the way others view it as well.
See more of Aliza Eliazarov’s work at alizaeliazarov.com.
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