Life As We’ve Known It - 350 Pictures of Compost


For the past several years I’ve been photographing my garbage. Not to see what it looks like but to see what it might become.

One example of how life as we know it is changing is in the air around us. For the past 20 years we’ve heard it conjectured that the planet is warming and people are the cause. While politicians and economists argue the point, science continues to indicate that there is a straightforward bottom line for the planet: 350, as in parts per million carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
As we cross over this threshold, we’re cooking our goose; to react as a poet to recent science discourse in global warming.
And the data just keep getting worse – “we’re already at 383 parts per million, and its knocking the planet off kilter in substantial ways”,
says Bill McKibben (you can read the article here).

So what do we do about it having altered the planet in ways that are certain to redefine our future as a species and change the picture in our minds-eye of life as we have known it? Whether we go forwards or backwards as far as atmospheric gas composition is concerned would seem to be up to governance and policy in control of resource consumption and population levels. Except for one thing: we all have at least a poetic voice in the matter of our fate.

As a visual artist and a working photographer, I use my voice to picture and to create in my imagination a view of the world as I see it. The compost heap, for example, can be seen as a collection of kitchen scraps and garden trimmings or as a metaphor of the cultural predicament that we’ve created. Each picture with its particular subject, from rotting entrails to sprouting tendrils, is other than what it may appear to be when understood as symbol, index, trace, or sign of natural process. From the bare bones of our food production to the mystery of life, the processes depicted in the pictures represent exactly what we humans are doing to this lovely planet. As such they illustrate a grand and majestic experiment that only people could conceive of: what will happen to us as we endlessly exfoliate and cast our garbage to the wind?

But, of course, my purpose is not to answer Bill McKibben’s question, “are we doomed?”. Rather the meaning and significance of the work is to raise awareness and contribute to  the rising consciousness that maybe its not too late – that 350 is our lucky number and that every personon the planet needs to get this picture.

- Carll Goodpasture
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Gjettum, Norway