This New York-Based Artist is Finding New Depth in a Glass of Water

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Photography by Suzanne Saroff

Suzanne Saroff imbues simple still life photographs with a playful sense of Surrealism

Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Suzanne Saroff found herself enthralled by the strange and beautiful details all around her. Whether she was playing outside in the city’s lush natural parks or shopping at the local grocery store with her mother, she would pause and consider the everyday visual illusions she regularly came across. “I would notice something happening like the light coming through a stack of canola oil and be like ‘look, its beautiful!’ and whoever I was with would be like – ‘I don’t get it, it’s canola oil?’” she recalls.

This childlike obsession followed her into adulthood – just a few months ago, the now 25-year-old art director and photographer was reminded of her age-old fascination. Walking into her kitchen in Brooklyn, New York, she noticed an orange sitting behind a glass of water. Moving towards it, the distorted orange seemed to dance, creating an optical illusion that awakened and stirred something inside of her. Days later, Saroff decided to explore the idea photographically, and it quickly turned into a series called Perspective that has since captivated audiences.

In her photographs, natural objects such as plants, fruits and vegetables are arranged behind clear water glasses and vases of all shapes and sizes, set against a neutral background. In this way, objects appear multiplied, stretched and flipped as they dance within the walls of the overlapping glasses. “In many of my images I aim to create a compositional waltz between the subjects and their own shadows,” she explains.

This switching and bending brings a new dimension to her still life images, one that’s reminiscent of Salvador Dalí’s Surrealist photography or Irving Penn’s Flower series. The artist says others have compared her photos to Cubism due to their abstraction of geometric shapes, which are meant to represent reality. “Often I will feel drawn to something I see or inspired by something in a memory, and have an urge to shoot it,” she says. “Colour is very important to me when choosing objects to shoot – I love rich and bright colours, and I like to play with how they look on various shades of neutral background palettes.”

Playing with perspective, the photographer sees the lens as a tool for highlighting an object’s nuances. Moreover, her process is ongoing, immediate and reactive – she stays open to her many creative impulses having recently set up a studio area in her apartment so she can shoot whenever she feels inclined to do so. “I like knowing that I can shoot anytime I am inspired,” says the artist, who hopes to showcase these images via an exhibition or photobook someday.