Think of math for me, real quick, just for a moment. Does your mind go to calculus and statistics, or do you think about how you need a tip calculator to leave money at a restaurant? I first think of the TI-84 graphing calculator, personally — but we are all wrong because it’s a trick question. We should be thinking about math’s relationship with photography. From the golden ratio to our desire to seek out repeating geometric patterns, photography is quite a bit more mathematical than meets the eye.
Now, with that in mind, consider Miami photographer Smadar “Sammy” Sasson. Although she does seek out those repeating patterns and geometric sensibilities, her math/photography relationship is a little more personal. With degrees in computer science and mathematics, five years ago, she turned to a hobby rooted in “seeing beauty.” Her work is a concert of motifs and juxtapositions in the natural world that focus on “shapes and colors.”
Sasson is incredibly well rounded in terms of genre. She captures subjects brightly and cheerful. Her photos as a whole are exploratory; spanning landscape, architecture, wildlife, lifestyle but the most captivating shots seem to be relatively minimal and abstract. They, too, run the genre gamut, incorporating the right mixture of elements to avoid being one-sided. Reducing something down to its barest form, stripping the audience of some context, and bringing the camera in for a tight composition is a surefire way to take the “every day” and turn it exciting and new.
A traveler at heart, Sasson often returns to her former home, the Pacific Northwest and always home of Tel-Aviv, visiting other picturesque destinations as she goes along. That all adds a natural diversity to her work but in unexpected ways. You’d be hard-pressed to find many recognizable landmarks, for example. She’s taken some iconic shots; you have to dig a bit. Sasson’s is an equal opportunity gallery, where Instagrammable hot spots carry the same weight as boat siding crackled with peeling paint.
Instead, variety comes subtly: which textures and scenes abound, which natural formations are around. No pastel, weathered cliffs gorged through with winding rivers exist in Florida, just as the sun never sets vibrantly over the ocean in any landlocked locale. Her minimal abstractions hint at a bigger truth than the fact that there is beauty found in all places. More than that, she reveals that places are very similar when you get down to it.
When you travel, you’ll often see something vaguely familiar and go, ‘ah, just like where I’m from.’ It might be highway signs, or a specific view makes you homesick. Anywhere you go, it’s present in everything. Small, colorful plants grow. Clouds and birds float across the sky. If water is present, it will beckon and stretch, just like any other body of water.
Even the architecture begins to surprise you; when it’s been curated, you’re not confronted by the same endlessly brutal and mundane constructions. Suddenly Northern Florida is home to a futuristic structure you’ve never seen up close, but then out of nowhere this other thing is actually an installation in Spain. The curves of a building in Miami and one in Israel run parallel against their blue skies. Usually, these places’ architectural styles would never bear such a resemblance to each other. Using small frames of view and a keen eye, Sasson manages to connect worlds thousands of miles apart. From flowers underfoot to the sun that hangs orange and purple over the horizon as it sets.
The truth is, if you look closely enough, differences become similarities. Like Sasson’s unrepentantly colorful collection, our world is a patchwork rainbow of individual experiences, and old feelings in new ways. Still, experiencing and truly seeing the world is an ongoing, continuous activity we add to all the time. It’s’ not so abstract after all.