Garbage, Almaty, Kazakhstan


When we lived in Almaty, I had a job that started at 7 am, so I'd walk through the parks of the city before anyone else was awake. And this being not Greece, most parties were finished and the people home by 5 or 6 am, so I had the place all to myself. It was beautiful and peaceful…

Until I started to realize that every morning Almaty looked abandoned. It was as though every resident of the city had been taken up and dropped whatever they were doing. So I set out to be the crying Indian, in the hopes that if people saw what they were doing, they'd stop.

I began work on an exhibition called Almaty: The Abandoned City. I went out every Saturday and Sunday for a month, shooting from about 5:30 until 7:30 am, taking pictures like this one. It got pretty depressing, because it was so easy to find junk and garbage, and I distinctly remember the moment when I had shot enough when I got excited over finding a huge pile of garbage.

Unfortunately, we were leaving in November, and I wanted to wait until I was sure I could put together an exhibit, so I didn't start looking for a venue until August. And I missed the fall exhibition season. So I may have been crying, but nobody knew about it.

Lest my Kazakhstani friends be offended, know that I remember American cities looking like this, and that what got us to start using garbage cans was a long series of advertising campaigns and exhibitions showing just how much garbage we were throwing out the windows of our cars and dropping in our parks.

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