Focus

July 28, 2016

BW photograph of trash and garbage piled up on a sidewalk.

Copyright 2016 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Bill Cunningham died several weeks ago.  I first read about this here, and as a result of that post, here.  A comment from that first link led me to Bill Cunningham New York, the documentary about this well-regarded photographer, which I recently watched.  I would highly recommend that documentary to anyone interested in the respectful commitment to a subject.  Mr. Cunningham’s focus happened to be fashion, but, as the obituary in The New York Times indicated, he went far beyond photographing clothes, he “…turned fashion photography into his own branch of cultural anthropology…”  Fitting words indeed.

I care very little about fashion, aside from the cultural aspect of it.  However, what I mostly appreciated about the documentary was the depiction of Mr. Cunningham’s process-the manner by which he went about doing his work (although he did not refer to this as “work”).  Fashion, clothes, was the subject, but really, the focus of his energy could have been something different.

Mr. Cunningham clearly loved working in New York and Paris because of the rich variety of people he encountered.  I am the opposite-I much prefer awakening early and being on the road to somewhere while it is still dark and relatively quiet.  I can lower the windows and feel and smell the air.  When going to the city, it is the relative absence of people in the very early morn that I find attractive.  Of course, it is also necessary to arrive early in order to photograph the trash before it is collected. People, though, often do provide fitting commentary to this subject.

For example, the above collection of seemingly organized empty bottles, cans, boxes, and variety of organic waste was photographed Tuesday morning, and it was located around the corner and up the block from the trashcan at the head of the previous post. There is a large construction site across the street and as several workers readied themselves for the day, they stopped and gazed at this debris.  Perhaps it was the smell that seized their attention.  One of the workers with whom I briefly spoke allowed that he was not from the area and had “never seen so much trash” as here in the city.  (As an important aside, that statement is most likely the impression the creators of the “Clean Up Baltimore” program want to change.) He was also up the street and so had not as yet seen this display.  Given the relationship of trash of the content of Sociology 101, I often use my photographs to illustrate those points.  Students often have similar reactions as those of the construction workers.

With that in mind, I do appreciate those who follow this blog, as it must be somewhat disconcerting to come here and see the detritus documented from post to post.  At the same time, to me, documenting this and the related subject matter is what is important.  It is the way my process works to call attention to what I consider to be a fundamental problem with our disposable culture.

The reason, quite simply, is because it really is not disposable at all.

Take care.

 

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