Michael, Jason, Annie and Olivia. (Photo: Gregg Segal)
Mariko. (Photo: Gregg Segal)
Till and Nicholas. (Photo: Gregg Segal)
Elias, Jessica, Azai and Ri-karlo. (Photo: Gregg Segal)
Dana. (Photo: Gregg Segal)
Milt. (Photo: Gregg Segal)
John. (Photo: Gregg Segal)
The Siggins. (Photo: Gregg Segal)
Susan. (Photo: Gregg Segal)

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Nine Different Households, Surrounded by a Week’s Worth Garbage

Photographer Gregg Segal wanted to highlight the problems of waste, pollution and overconsumption

smithsonian.com

Gregg Segal says he has always been intrigued and disturbed by garbage. As a kid, he remembers, he'd wonder where all of his family's rubbish went, and whether we'd ever run out of places to put it. 

Now living with a family of his own in California, the photographer's concern has only become more pronounced. "As a nation, we generate 4 million tons of waste, weekly," he says. "I’m concerned not only by how much we throw away, but by how blithe we are to the problem." 

To draw attention to this issue, Segal decided to photograph family, friends, neighbors and anyone else willing posing with a week's worth of their accumulated trash. He instructed his photographic subjects to save everything—from banana peels to recyclables—and to bring it over to his house at the end of the week. There, he photographed them in his backyard using three different backdrops he created: water, beach and forest. In the future, Segal plans to expand the project to include other environments, such as fields and tundras. 

Some of his subjects told him that seeing all of their garbage laid out like that made them more aware of their consumption habits and the magnitude of waste they produce. Some added that they felt powerless at the sight of it all. But Segal hopes that the project will also stand in as "a record not only of our waste but of our values—values that may be evolving a little." 

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