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Artfully laid out garbage: photography by Pascal Rostain

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A picture of Madonna's garbage

A picture of Madonna’s garbage

The word rude comes from the latin rudus, which means garbage (well, rubble, to be exact), and the French have coined rudologie, meaning the science of garbage as an discipline (think anthropology meets geography meets waste management).

Rudologie was recently raised to an art form by Pascal Rostain, a photographer and former paparazzi who has an exhibit (and book) of nicely laid out garbage.  Consistent to his former profession, a large part of his work is taking pictures of the garbage of stars; should you wish to know what to expect from Madonna’s garbage, or Ronald Reagan’s, he’s your man.

His work also includes garbage from ordinary people all over the world, from Paris suburbs to Malawi or Malaysia.

Ordinary garbage from Malawi

Ordinary garbage from Malawi

Curiosity prodded Rostain to look through Serge Gainsbourg’s garbage, and what he found somewhat surprised him: there was no secret Gainsbourg, there was only garbage that matched the public persona: packs of Gitane cigarettes and bottles of Ricard pastis, all empty.

Beyond the paparazzi interest, garbage reveals a lot about an individual or an era.  It is a snapshot of consumerism, of eating, of leisure.

Anonymous trash from Kuala Lumpur

Anonymous trash from Kuala Lumpur

Rostain is of course not the first to sift through garbage for anthropological interest; William Rathje’s garbage project (“an anthropology of garbage”) started a good 35 years ago.  And turning garbage into art is also not new, from work using found objects to the work of Tim Noble or Sue Webster, for instance, or HA Schult.   Art photography is not unique, either; Chris Jordan, in particular, has made amazing work out of repeated patterns of waste or consumer items (check out his Intolerable Beauty series, in particular).  

But Rostain’s work is the only one that lays out the garbage, carefully sorted out by size and shape, and simply takes pictures – as if it were an illustration plate for a zoology book.  Strangely compelling.

We like to ignore garbage, just toss it into some imaginary “away”.  But Rostain’s work shows that this is willful blindness on our part – there is a weird beauty in objects of all kind, and they present us with a mirror of who we are. 

Bruce Willis' garbage.

Bruce Willis’ garbage.


Written by enviropaul

November 25, 2013 at 5:55 pm

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  1. […] a recent post I stated that the word “rude” comes from the latin for […]

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