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"The goal was to show the beauty in the food that was being wasted."
While many bruised or misshapened fruits and vegetables end up in the trash, one New York artist is trying to give them new life on canvas. Photographer Aliza Eliazarov has made it her mission to rescue NYC's disgarded food and give it an artist's touch. In her "Waste Not" series, Eliazarov has rescued bruised bananas, wilted greens, and browning apples from grocery stores and markets in order to create a dialogue around food waste.
According to Slate, Eliazarov was on a photo assignment for AM New York when she first was inspired to embark on this project by one dumpster-diving anti-consumerism activist. Having focused a great deal on sustainability in her past work, Eliazarova admired the man's mission to salvage food that had unnecessarily been tossed, and decided to tackle this issue in her own creative way.
"The idea of food waste is one of those things that stays with you and nags at you," Eliazarov says. "I realized it was something I wanted to make a project out of." She began working with "freegans"—environmentally conscious people who choose to salvage food from the dumpster, rather than buying it new—to seek out her subjects: the disgarded fruits and vegetables themselves. When pulled directly out of the trash, the food was far from glamorous, and as Eliazarov says, "the goal was to show the beauty in the food that was being wasted." So, she took another approach, setting up elaborate and elegant still lifes that evoked Renaissance paintings.
When she was finished shooting her subjects, Eliazarov did in fact eat the food, ensuring it wouldn't go straight to the garbage. "I made apple crisps, banana bread. I drank the juices. I tried not to waste it." On top of her own artistic activism, Eliazarov has also embraced other anti-food waste organizations and projects, including City Harvest, which gives free produce to the hungry, and chef Dan Barber's WastED pop-up, at which dishes were prepared using typically disgarded ingredients.
Though Eliazarov's dumpster diving only rescues a small portion of edible produce tossed out by grocery stores, restaurants, and the like, Eliazarov is hoping that by creating something beautiful, she can show that every fruit and vegetable should have the chance to be admired—and consumed.