A Society of Waste
10 Feb 2011
When I started photographing on the waste dumps of Central America the pictures were shot from a distance, with no specific purpose. They were made at random. From my original viewpoint on the periphery, the people, so small and distant, seemed like a race apart. These are not the controlled sanitary landfills of the industrialised world, but open depositories of waste. The air is filled with the smell of decay and the smoke of spontaneous fires, stoked by methane. Dogs, vultures and people scavenge. These people risk so much to squeeze an existence out of our waste. Who are they?
They are collectors. As I got closer, I began to appreciate them as individuals. Each goes off to his or her tasks in the morning and returns in the evening. Some collect bottles, others cardboard boxes or aluminium cans; some mind the store where the material is deposited. A family specialises in collecting bronze. In a shack made of cardboard, another family runs a cafeteria where the collectors buy soft drinks or tamales. Some are proud, others humble, some open and garrulous, some reserved, just as in the rest of the world. Some dominate, some are subjugate. Children work and play.
This set is more about the people than about the waste. I do not know whether the images come from my realisation that the people that live with the waste of our society are as much individuals as anyone else, or whether the realisation came from making the images. It is meant as a simple portfolio of images of people, in their environment, that are every bit as unique as the rest of us, and all members of the same society of waste.