One Man’s Trash

Ryan Struck strikes gold in ‘Rockaway’s Trash’

The first time I came to Rockaway I was appalled at all of the garbage on the beach. There were trash bins everywhere and rubbish strewn all about their general area, with birds picking though the bits. I couldn’t believe what I saw, I was totally turned off.

Fast forward a few years and now I live here. Irony. This series “Rockaway’s Trash” explores the aberration of seaside littering and my visceral feelings for seeing it on the beach. I do not aim for shaming, environmental soapbox standing, or preaching how we should all carry out our own garbage. Let’s be real, garbage winds up at landfills around the country, how is that any better?

Rather than display the obvious: overflowing bins of garbage, I want viewers to look, absorb and come to their own understandings.

For here I am, disgusted with the beaches at first sight and now have come to love the culture I see, experiences I have, and enjoy the sea by the City here in Rockaway.

Photography isn’t meant to always be literal. I can literally photograph garbage, but that’s just gawking. Much as how street photography isn’t shooting homeless. Or good writing isn’t exacting. Garbage is gross, but these images are made during beautiful times of the day. So are these images beautiful? Not everything is cut and dry—life is full of contradictions.

Are these images beautiful? Not everything is cut and dry—life is full of contradictions.

After a rain storm, as nightfall settles, all the grains of sand are without humans in sight. Solitude amongst the fringes of metropolis. Ephemeral as these moments are, they exist nonetheless. Normally overflowing with plastic, broken umbrellas, and discarded beach chairs, these bins too find moments of respite. Here they stand, empty and alone.

I love the painted quality of light here at the beach. Unrivaled sunsets bring pretty colors that remind me deeply of nature’s beauty. Somethings are pretty for no reason other than just being.


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