Project Statement: Paho Mann

During the year that I worked on the North Gateway Transfer Station Project (Fall 2007-Fall 2008) environmental awareness hit a new high in social and political dialogs.   For me this awareness took two major forms.  First, that the current rate of consumption of resources is unsuitable, posing a global environmental threat, and second that this same consumption pattern has weakened the world economy. Central to my understanding of this project is that looking at what we own and consume reveals something about our identity and culture, and that this examination underlines the importance of making thoughtful choices in what we do with these objects.

To create the images in the North Gateway Transfer Station Project I made nearly 6000 photographs of individual recyclables at a solid waste transfer and material recovery station in Phoenix, Arizona.  I selected the objects at random from the incoming recyclables from the city’s curbside recycling program and photographed them isolated against a black background in an on-site lighting studio.

By sampling a relatively small amount of waste (5824 objects from an excess of 100,000 tons of recycling processed in Phoenix each year) and further narrowing the selection with keywords, consumer choices become more specific. The resulting images attempt to show particular objects, not the abstract understanding of the hundreds of millions of tons of waste created in the United States each year.

I entered the photographs into a database and gave them keywords from categories including material, color, and use.  The keywords were chosen for a variety of reasons: their connection to categories of recyclables (e.g. paper, plastic, cardboard); the visual qualities of the objects photographed (e.g. red, orange, yellow); the use of the object (e.g. water bottle, toy); and personal interactions with the objects (e.g. kids’ drawings).

The database is used to create this interactive website as well as prints.  The keywords used to generate the prints are chosen for visual impact and to highlight consumer choices. The prints are displayed as grids with accompanying image overlays. The overlays are created by stacking and averaging the color and tone of all the individual photographs from each group. The website allows users to sort through all of the photographs made at the transfer station using the same database that I use to make the prints.  The prints and website offer two alternative visual entry points into the project.

Metal by Color Paho Mann

Information About Phoenix Recycling

Educational opportunities for City of Phoenix residents regarding recycling are provided by Recycling Contracts and Education staff. If you would like to reserve a free speaker on recycling or other solid waste issues for your own group or if you would like to schedule a tour of the North Gateway Transfer Station and Materials Recovery Facility or the 27th Ave. Solid Waste Management Facility and their recycling Material Recovery Facilities, call 602-534-7098 or e-mail, Meetings / tours last approximately one hour.


City of Phoenix Recycling information: here
EPA Information on Recycling: here
EPA Information on Composting: here
Arizona Cooperative Extension: here