These are images from my first visit to a site where I am working on documenting the land. I wasn’t initially going to post these as I consider them to be snapshots really, quick reference images for the start of the project but I now see some value in them, even if it’s just for myself. A small introduction:
It is strange perhaps, to be intrigued by a landfill. In a way it is an interest 20 years or so in the making. Twenty years of driving by; observing, passing glances, fleeting questions. Images stuck in my head.

I pass no judgement on this place. I only want to get a sense of it, to understand it and to learn. In a way I know that part of me is already here. A cast-off part. I am one of the small bones in the spine of the ridge that makes up this place. I am implicated.
There is also a beating heart to this place. We have shaken hands. We share a respect, for the landfill, for each other. The beating heart and the fragment of spine have an understanding. I am after the beauty of it. I’m not sure how this will unfold exactly…

All images Β© Karen McRae

37 thoughts on “Landfill

  1. Beautiful writing!! I love how you tie yourself into these images of a landfill. They are indeed fascinating! If you ever have a spare second, look up Pam Longobardi. I think you would love her work. I have her latest book… She visited the giant ocean trash dump (somewhere near Hawaii) that’s the size of Texas and uses what she finds there in her work. Great documentation and post!! πŸ™‚

  2. I like this. The idea that you are a part of the land. It’s amazing how the landfill can be transformed. Appears to be in the moment of transforming – becoming cleansed, sort of? Now they’ve discovered a type of fungus that eats plastic, I imagine these landfills churned with the spores, speeding up the process.

  3. “I pass no judgement…I only want to understand and learn”. A land ethic worthy of Aldo Leopold or Wendell Berry. I look forward to hearing more!

  4. I think you are absolutely on to something. As you know, the most important thing about photography, a photograph, is that the photographer cares about and is connected to whatever is being photographed. And if that comes out in the work, you have something there. That is what happened with my series of ‘crummy’ digital photos from a moving car. At first I thought they were crap, and then they really grew on me, and I think I put together a significant body of work in a relatively short time. So, please go for it!!!

  5. Wow, such a coincidence, both of us having posted about landfills in the same week!

    I find these images filled with the hope that nature’s resiliency can still muster, despite all of the damage we’ve done.

    I didn’t mention this in my post, but the landfill in Brazil that I mentioned is slated to be closed this year, and I can only hope that nature will take it, the largest of all landfills, back.

  6. It’s perfectly understandable to be fascinated by landfill. It’s what becomes of our lives, the things we cast off. The notion that we could dig down into a landfill and discover layers of our past is intriguing. And even if the fill is just dirt, then it’s still man-made land, which is almost like a dare to nature, very bold. I live in San Francisco. Big chunks of the city were built on landfill as they filled in the Bay to make more room for the growing city. What used to be a harbor is now the Financial District, and sometimes when the ground is torn up to build a new building, they find the remains of an old ship.

    1. So interesting!
      Matt have you read the book “Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children”, by Ransom Riggs?
      It would be right up your alley! A story spun around old photographs…coincidentally, there is also an archaeologist in there who studies landfill.

  7. I am very much looking forward to how this unfolds Karen. Having a vested interest in it for 20 years, I am sure it is a process that cannot be rushed. Very interesting and again, inspiring to see beauty in this. Thank you!

  8. It seems like you’re already in the right frame of mind to be doing whatever it is you’re going to be doing. You’ve owned your part in what it has become and recognize yourself inside of it. Wow…if you can translate that into your project, I can’t imagine that it will be anything less than your normal fare. If it’s something that you can/will share with us, I can’t wait.

  9. All we need is a few hundred years to pass, and these places will be historically significant. Anthropologic goldmines.
    But I love your thoughts and words on our own implication – and thinking about what that means.

  10. All I could think about when reading your account of the birth of this landfill is the fact that the landfill in Staten Island, New York was used to deposit most of the debris from the towers that were felled by some devious people. Some of the debris was sorted out in a hanger at Fiorello LaGuardia International Airport and to this day I have a feeling that some human remains were deposited at the Staten Island landfill.

    1. You have had me thinking about your comment for the last couple of days. It’s such a powerful image you put in my mind.
      Thank you for commenting. Sincerely.

  11. Really interesting..I like your thought of the “beating heart”..It is an odd sensation looking at these..I don’t know if it is auto suggestion but I can feel a pulsing under the soil, as if the buried things are pushing up, moving and creaking underneath, alive in a is like a little of the human soul is under there..a strange semi dead, semi living’ve made me think again about these spaces..!

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