Mesmerizing Photos of People Lying in a Week's Worth of Their Trash
By Jordan G. Teicher / slate.com
Jul 17, 2014

The United States has a trash problem. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the average American produces more than 4 pounds of garbage per day. That’s more than double the amount produced in 1960, and it’s50 percent more than the amount produced by Western Europeans. In January, photographer Gregg Segal decided to put some imagery to those numbers. His ongoing series, “7 Days of Garbage,” shows Californian friends, neighbors, and relative strangers lying in the trash they created in one week.

Some of Segal’s subjects volunteered to be a part of the project because they believed in the idea behind it. Others were compensated for participating. Generally, Segal strove to include people from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds. And while the amount of garbage varies by person, there were some people who produced more garbage than they were willing to bring to the shoot. “Of course, there were some people who edited their stuff. I said, ‘Is this really it?’ I think they didn’t want to include really foul stuff so it was just packaging stuff without the foul garbage. Other people didn’t edit and there were some nasty things that made for a stronger image,” Segal said.

2_7 Days of Garbage_Si#9C36A0
Alfie, Kirsten, Miles, and Elly.

Gregg Segal

10_7 Days of Garbage_St#9C35EE
Marsha and Steven.

Gregg Segal

9_7 Days of Garbage_ Jane and Sam 65687
Sam and Jane.

Gregg Segal

5_7 Days of Garbage_Su#9C35E8
Susan.

Gregg Segal

6_7 Days of Garbage_Mi#9D54A5
Milt.

Gregg Segal

4_7_Days_Garbage_Chow Family 66189
Michael, Jason, Annie, and Olivia.

Gregg Segal

3_7 Days of Garbage_Ro#9D54A0
Lya, Whitney, and Kathrin.

Gregg Segal

Segal used natural materials to transform his yard into artificial environments, like a forest floor or a sandy beach or a body of water, where he photographed all his subjects. "I shot from above to make it very clinical and clean and graphic. It’s kind of a nest, a bed we’re lying in with all this stuff, forcing us to reconcile what we’re producing, which hopefully causes some people to think a little bit more about what they’re consuming,” he said.

Naturally, some people had some hesitation about lying in garbage. “They thought it was kind of gross. I think there’s something mildly humiliating about it, but in a constructive way,” Segal said. “It’s kind of a once in a lifetime experience for people to be photographed with all their stuff. I think it’s seen as a kind of novelty for some people and the question of grossness was mitigated by the novelty factor.”

Segal posed for a photo, too, with his wife and son. “I didn’t want to act like I’m separate,” he said. “I wasn’t crazy about the picture, but I do think it’s important to show people. It’s not like I’m pointing the finger at them. I’m pointing it at all of us.”

As Segal continues to work on his series, he intends to shoot his subjects in a greater variety of constructed natural settings to enforce the idea that garbage is everywhere and that no environment is left untouched by it. “Obviously, the series is guiding people toward a confrontation with the excess that’s part of their lives. I’m hoping they recognize a lot of the garbage they produce is unnecessary,” he said. “It’s not necessarily their fault. We’re just cogs in a machine and you’re not culpable really but at the same time you are because you’re not doing anything, you’re not making any effort. There are some little steps you can take to lessen the amount of waste you produce.”

Segal’s work is included in this year’s edition of The Fence in Brooklyn.

11_7 Days of Garbage_Ha#9C3688
Elias, Jessica, Azai, and Ri-karlo.

Gregg Segal

7_7_Days_Garbage_John 65314
John.

Gregg Segal

1_7 Days of Garbage 57663
Dana.

Gregg Segal

8_7 Days of Garbage_Ma#9D54A2
Till and Nicholas.

Gregg Segal

12_7 Days of Garbage_James 57765
James.

Gregg Segal

 

Jordan G. Teicher writes about photography for Slates Behold blog. Follow him onTwitter.

4.0 ·
2
Trending Today
The West Was Built on Racism. It's Time We Faced That
2 min16,297 views today ·
The Venus Project Plans to Bring Humanity to the Next Stage of Social Evolution. Here's How.
Daniel Araya with Roxanne Meadows15,417 views today ·
Bertrand Russell & Buckminster Fuller on Why We Should Work Less, and Live & Learn More
Josh Jones12,854 views today ·
Forget Shorter Showers: Why Personal Change Does Not Equal Political Change (2015)
11 min10,049 views today ·
7 Signs of Tyranny
2 min5,909 views today ·
The Trump Report - The Real Fake News About The Dakota Access Pipeline
2 min4,964 views today ·
4.1 Miles
21 min4,707 views today ·
Life's Pursuit: Endlessly Seeking External Rewards is Self-Defeating
Gavin Aung Than4,037 views today ·
The Choice Between Fear And Love
5 min3,954 views today ·
What It Takes to Change Hearts and Minds
Colin Beavan2,651 views today ·
How a Lack of Touch Is Destroying Men
Mark Green1,719 views today ·
Touch Isolation: How Homophobia Has Robbed All Men Of Touch
Mark Greene1,376 views today ·
Load More
New
How the BBC Makes The Most Incredible Wildlife Films in the World
14 min
Learning to See in the Dark Amid Catastrophe: An Interview With Deep Ecologist Joanna Macy
Dahr Jamail
Beyond Trump: Rebooting the System From Inside the Death Machine
Nafeez Ahmed, with Andrew Markell and Gunther Sonnenfeld
The West Was Built on Racism. It's Time We Faced That
2 min
Chris Hedges & Abby Martin - Trump, Fascism & the Christian Right
26 min
4.1 Miles
21 min
7 Signs of Tyranny
2 min
How to Be a Great Listener
5 min
DAPL Opponents Vow to 'Rise' From Ashes of Oceti Sakowin and Keep Fighting
Lauren McCauley
Those That Did Not Seek Revenge
Dr. Ann Russo
MLK Stands With Standing Rock (#NoDAPL)
3 min
Michael Moore Wants to Help You Find Your Next Anti-Trump Protest
Sarah Ruiz-Grossman
Load More
What's Next
Random Lunacy: Videos from the Road Less Traveled
5 min
Surfing For Change: Indonesia Trash Tubes
13 min
This Is John Oliver's Epic Treatise Calling On The Internet To Prevent Cable Company F-ckery
13 min
Like us on Facebook?
Mesmerizing Photos of People Lying in a Week's Worth of Their Trash