Sophia Li ’21: “There is Art All Around Us”

Part of our “Art and Artists are Essential” collection and invitation.

“As a photographer, my greatest sources of inspiration are the people and outside world around me. I had so many exciting ideas for my final project that I wanted to shoot in Denmark (where I had been studying abroad before the pandemic outbreak), and then suddenly I had to return back to the suburbs of Massachusetts and self-quarantine at home. At first, I was pretty dejected about the prospect of creating a photography project from within the confines of my house. My day-to-day life felt rather mundane, so I didn’t feel like I had anything meaningful to photograph.

However, through the process of making this project, I’ve learned that you don’t need to be traveling across the globe or embarking on some wild, crazy adventure to create art. There is art all around us—the job of the artist is to connect the dots and weave a compelling narrative to share with the rest of the world.

Due to the COVID-19 quarantine in Massachusetts, my family has been trying to reduce our food consumption in order to limit trips to the grocery store. Consequently, I have become hyper-aware of the quantity of food my family eats, and even more so of the amount we throw away. I decided to start taking photos of our “scraps:” the supposedly inedible parts, the expired and stale parts, and the disgusting parts of our food. Maybe burnt apple crisp and banana peels weren’t good for eating, but perhaps they could be good for art.

Inspired by still life images, I began rearranging our food scraps into different sculptures and layouts—sometimes adding leaves and flowers that I found in the backyard into the assortment as well. It became a challenge to see what new creations I could come up with every day. Now, since I started photographing our food waste, my mom pauses to call out to me before dumping food in the trash: ‘Do you want my apple core? How about these fish bones? Care for some broccoli stems?’ And sometimes, instead of throwing out the food, she also asks, ‘What if we add this to our soup for tomorrow’s lunch?’” — Sophia Li ’21, Neuroscience Major, Photography Minor