From Janie to Janie
anatomy at water’s edge
“From Janie to Janie” is a survey of natural and man-made debris, found, photographed and collected from an approximate one mile stretch of waterfront over a period of one year. The man-made items are represented in collages, titled ReAppropriation, either as they were found or rephotographed in the studio. The intent of these collages is to uniquely account for each and every piece of debris, regardless of size and tedium, grouped loosely by association. The images give a serious but somewhat comic insight into the types of debris, quantities found and how stable it has been in the environment. Many of the items are also represented individually by categories or grouped into vignettes. An unintended exploration of the naturally occurring anatomy developed as the project progressed. These items were explored both as they lay on the beach and in the studio.
For the studio images, I have intentionally used a white background as a derivative of current advertising practices, albeit, post consumer, while offering a stark contrast with the filthy nature of the debris.
As a photographer on this project, I suppressed my criticisms of the trash on the waterfront and instead focused my energies on my fascination with my findings. However, with the abundant runoff of the spring flooding, and subsequent inundation of debris filling my immediate landscape, my understanding and focus has changed. I began to realize, in a manner not previously understood, the migratory nature of trash in our waterways flowing from our drainage ditches and roadways. Either by accidental or intentional action, the countryside is being inundated on a massive scale by the individual fingerprints of personal irresponsibility.
About this Project
By fall of 2014, North Texas had been in the midst of a multi-year drought. Water levels in the area lakes had been dropping for several years, with the occasional downpour sometimes adding to the lake level, but often not. As the water levels dropped, more beach appeared at waters edge. I began this photo project as a treasure hunt of sorts. Throughout the years that we had lived on Eagle Mountain Lake, numerous items had washed ashore or had been revealed on the beach when lake levels were low. Many of these items struck a comic fancy in me; a small teddy bear caked in sand, a full size plastic trash can, fishing lures, and golf balls! An idea to search for and photograph the more interesting items on our ever expanding beach began.
Initially, I set out with my camera and a few plastic bags to the collect items that I might find interesting. I began seeing pieces of rusty metal, bottles, and cans but skipped over those in search of more intriguing items. I documented each item as it lay, without altering or positioning, often not knowing what I was photographing until I removed it. I decided to give the same photographic weight to each item regardless of size. About an hour into my first search, I could no longer ignore the ever present bottles and cans. My bags quickly became bulging with these sand laden bottles and cans, along with the occasional “treasure”. I began to mentally categorize items, often musing, “why would “that” be found in the sand 300 feet from the expected waters edge”; items such as the perfectly intact, sand filled, paper covered coat hanger from Comet Cleaners! I began to feel, somewhat akin to ancient superstition that if I were to capture the image of an object, I should take responsibility for it. Dutifully, I pushed my wheelbarrow along the beach to assist in the removal of these objects. Much to my husband’s dismay, my fascination did not end with the trash and recycle bins. I continued processing these items, storing them in a shed, cleaning them of the bulk of the sand and organizing them into categories for future study.
I soon decided that I needed to create an arbitrary boundary area and time table for collection. Natural stopping points presented themselves to the north and south of my property. Interestingly, my friend Janie had moved from one of these boundary points to the other. Thus, the title of this project is a fitting nod to her, a friend, mentor, and local legend, who for many years has carried a bag on her daily walks and collected trash from the roadside. While the majority of the items in my collection are from this area, I have taken artistic license to add a few items as they presented themselves to me along other pathways. For my timeline, I had chosen either a year’s length in time or the waters rise, whichever occurred first. The spring floods brought an onslaught of additional debris to our recently cleaned beach. Rather than end the project with the flood as I had intended, I felt possessed to collect as much of the floating trash as was able in my collection area until the year’s end.