Proposal: Trash

For my Photo Essay, I’d like to take on option one and take 12-15 original photographs of what people throw away.

Trash day can say a lot about the residents of a house, the community they live in, and the society we all comprise. To throw something away is a statement. You’re saying one or many things: “I don’t need this,” or “I don’t want this,” or perhaps even “I can’t have this.” Trash is history. It tells stories.

Since my girlfriend suggested this idea to me, we’ve been going back and forth, elaborating on what trash can say about us and what the variables might be. Do people with Porches in freshly-paved driveways throw away different things than people with beat-up Buicks outside of apartment buildings? I can imagine that they would. But maybe they don’t.

Years ago, I moved my mother and myself into a new house. We knew the previous tenants were evicted, but too many more details outside of reports of domestic violence from other neighbors and the mother’s supposed drinking problem. She had two children. They left a lot behind in the garage—mostly junk—and I moved it all to the curb for trash collection with a friend. Two of the boxes were filled with toys. We put them on the curb with the other things and looked at them in silence for a moment. The scene said more about the house’s history than any inquiry I’d made at that point. It would have made a powerful picture.

Maybe we’re driving past more history lying on curb-sides every week than we think.


One comment

  1. Hi Phil,

    This is an interesting topic. One can certainly learn much about people from what they throw out.

    One concern I have is that most trash these days is put in large green or blue bins provided to residents by waste management companies. So, the trash is hidden inside. Searching through the trash or up-dumping the bin would be a big problem, I suspect, for residents. There also might be legal issues.

    Are you thinking about looking at trash in a specific place? The dump would be a fascinating space to photograph and I’d encourage you to reach out to the dump to gain permission to photograph there. That, however, could take time to get.

    So . . . if you have specific places in mind, let me know. If not, you might consider changing it….

    Let me know!


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