It's easy to forget how much trash we produce each week: a wrapper here, a bottle there, a half-eaten carton of bad strawberries. But all those trips to the garbage bin add up.
To demonstrate people's waste footprint, photographer Gregg Segal snapped images of a handful of volunteers and paid participants surrounded by a week's worth of their refuse. Shot in Segal's yard in California, the images include people of all ages, from an array of socioeconomic backgrounds, lying in grass, sand or water, surrounded by piles of their own garbage. In one photo, a family of four rolls atop white sand littered with watermelon rinds, empty frozen food boxes and ramen wrappers. In another, three young women float in a pool of orange peels, old french fries and crushed snack boxes.
Dana, by Gregg Segal
In an interview with Slate, Segal said some of the participants "edited" their trash piles, likely due to embarrassment over the "really foul stuff." "They thought it was kind of gross. I think there’s something mildly humiliating about it, but in a constructive way,” he added. “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."
The ongoing series, which Segal calls "7 Days of Garbage," is a natural extension of his earliest forays into photography. "My mother tells me she knew I'd become a photographer when after she got me a camera for my eleventh birthday, I photographed our neighbor's garbage," Segal writes on his website. "I'm lucky I had the sort of mother who saw photographs of garbage as art -- or at least as material worthy of documentation."
Check out more of his photos from the series, below:
"7 Days of Garbage" is on display until October at Brooklyn Bridge Park's "The Fence" exhibit in New York.