It is easy to forget about trash. We collect it in bags, hide it in garbage bins, and wait for it to be carried away to one of the 3,500-plus landfills in the United States. As soon as it leaves our homes, it is out of sight and can easily be put out of mind.
With his series 7 Days of Garbage, photographer Gregg Segal transforms trash into something that is impossible to ignore. To prepare for the project, he sought out families, couples, and individuals and asked them to save all of their trash for a week. Then, he had them bring that garbage to his house in Altadena, California and asked them to lie down to be photographed in a bed of their own waste.
Segal took the photos in four different settings – water, snow, forest, and beach, all created in his backyard – intent on expressing that our garbage ends up everywhere. He also asked participants to include their recyclables in the shoot to highlight that many recyclables aren’t actually recycled, that recycling carries its own environmental cost, and that packaging – whether it is recyclable or not – tends to be excessive.
Segal noticed that the process was difficult for many participants. Aside from the ick-factor of lying in a week’s worth of trash (a lot, given that the average American generates four pounds of trash a day), many subjects expressed feelings of powerlessness to reduce their waste, though some were hopeful about changing their consumption habits. Others went so far as to edit the garbage they brought to the site, perhaps self-conscious about the content or quantity of their waste (or maybe simply to avoid lying in their least-appealing refuse).
By including people of varied ages and backgrounds, and photographing them in different settings, Segal’s series drives home the universality of our waste problem. He hopes the impact of the series will spread beyond the participants, and will help Americans keep their garbage in mind, if not always in sight.
Gregg Segal’s work has been exhibited in galleries and museums throughout the United States, and has been recognized with awards from American Photography, Communication Arts, and the Tokyo International Photography Festival. You can view more of his photography at www.greggsegal.com.
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