People and Their Trash: Menzel Records What We Throw Away

Peter Menzel’s latest portraits educate the public about the importance of recycling

By Amanda Arnold

“The idea of showing what Americans throw away is something we’ve been thinking about doing for years,” says photojournalist Peter Menzel. “But that doesn’t seem like the kind of [photo] book people would buy, and we do our projects unsponsored and unfunded, so we had to table the idea.”

That is until The Glad Products Company approached Menzel and his partner, writer Faith D’Aluisio, offering both funding and creative freedom in return for a series of photos addressing just that topic. The series, dubbed “Waste in Focus,” and its website wasteinfocus.com were unveiled at a press conference on April 10. On Earth Day, April 22, eight photos from the project will be on exhibit in Times Square.

One challenge was finding a way to display the trash in a visually interesting way for the photos. Ultimately, Menzel and D’Aluisio decided to string the items from two rolling clothes racks using bird netting, with the recyclables and compost items featured to the left and the landfill items to the right. The displays were then loaded into a truck and set up inside the family’s home.

Learn more and read our interview with Peter Menzel in the July issue of Professional Photographer magazine. [Click for larger image.]

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