As a photographer and someone who cares about the future of our planet, I’m interested in all aspects of consumption. Both what we consume and what we throw away tell a story about our health and the health of the planet.
In 2014, I struck on an idea that makes consumption, excess and waste impossible to ignore: I asked family, friends, neighbors, and friends of neighbors to save their garbage for one week, then lay down and be photographed in it. By extension, those who look at these pictures may stop and think about how much garbage they produce every week - and a conversation is started. I wanted my 8 year-old son to be aware that we’re part of the problem, too, so we lay down in our garbage. Many of the people I’ve photographed are starting to make small changes in their consumption habits. They're composting more and buying products made to last longer instead of cheap, disposable ones. They’re choosing products with less packaging, re-using plastic containers rather than tossing them, and buying water bottles made of glass or stainless steel.
Through Slate and Bored Panda, I’ve reached over a million people. Last fall I took the project to Toronto. The story was picked up by The Independent, Le Monde, Stern, Vanity Fair Italy, Newsweek Japan. In the process of photographing people’s garbage, I began to look more deeply at food – what we’re eating and what we’re throwing away. There’s a lot of talk about what we should and shouldn’t be eating and a growing awareness about the harm of eating processed foods loaded with salt, fat, sugar and empty carbs. But how much - if at all - are our diets changing?
To address this, I’ve launched a follow-up project called Daily Bread. I’ve asked kids and parents to keep a journal of everything they eat in a week. Once the week is up, I replicate the meals (with a small army of stylists) and make a portrait of the child with the food laid out on a table. The process – and the resulting pictures – focuses our collective attention on an essential part of our lives and health. Through Daily Bread, I connected with Dr. Maya Adam, a Stanford professor whose on-line course Child Nutrition and Cooking has drawn a quarter million students from around the world who are sharing recipes, contributing to an international community cookbook. I’ve reached out to some of these families and arranged to photograph them. My goal is to record the spectrum of diets eaten here and in other parts of the world. How does the diet of a child who lives in the foothills of the Himalayas differ from that of a child in suburban Wisconsin?
The funds I raise will allow me to continue shooting both 7 Days of Garbage & Daily Bread overseas. The next step is to produce a book and traveling exhibition that is equal parts social commentary, public health initiative and instant archeological record. But the work doesn’t end with a book and a couple of exhibits. The deeper goal is to be a catalyst for change. The big picture is the growing grassroots community I’m a part of. It’s about connecting, sharing information, learning from one another and taking responsibility. Together we’ll stir the pot using ingredients that don’t end up in a landfill. Together we can move the needle on diet, consumption and waste.
Sample images from 7 Days of Garbage and Daily Bread:
Risks and challenges
The challenges are typical to any international photo shoot: travel/transporting gear, finding local, skilled assistants, staying within budget, weather. None of these potential challenges is a serious threat to the project, however; with more than 20 years of experience shooting both here and abroad, I'm equipped to meet these challenges.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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