At first encounter, the subjects in Lise Sarfati’s The New Life appear as mere simulacra; empty facsimilies of real young Americans, not possibly true flesh and blood. Each person, devoid of motion and spirit, is a shallow imitation of what could be a teenaged or twenty-something individual, only recognizable by their dress and surroundings as such. Are they real, but simply bored to death? Or are they victims of immobilizing uncertainty? Each seems lost in a daydream with no one to wake them, gazing timelessly past the material world, and into an almost tangible void. A closer look, however, unveils the central, pervading question on the minds of Sarfati’s subjects in the New Life series; where do I go from here? The doubt, withdrawal, and sometimes the quiet determination this query rouses, is remarkably palpable in every picture Lise Sarfati takes; in the space between two drags of a cigarette, in the moments spent staring out a window, and in the time spent waking, uncertain of what getting out of bed will really mean. For Lise Sarfati, a native of France, the new life is the same wherever she happens to be taking photographs. It is that which her young subjects are questioning, and it is where their search will take them as they transform beyond their current adolescent reality. The new life, simply put, and beautifully rendered by Sarfati in a series of American-based images, is the so-called void into which each person she photographs stares, and the uncertainty of their very next move.
The New Life