47. Pictures of Junk by Vik Muniz, 2006-2009
Photographer Vik Muniz was born to a working-class family in Sao Paolo, Brasil in 1961. As a young man, he was shot in the leg, and subsequently given monetary compensation for his injury. Muniz used this money to make his way to New York City where he continues to live today. Over the course of Muniz's artistic career, he has continued to use unconventional materials (like sugar, chocolate sauce, diamonds or peanut butter and jelly) to create portraits and well-known photographs, but with new layers of meaning created from the symbolic doubling of the materials used to render the image. This three year project was aptly named, the Pictures of Junk series; as they were images created by the amalgamation and careful arrangement of urban detritus. But, it is worth mentioning that these works were not only credited just to Muniz but also to the catadores of Brasil's Jardim Gramacho, the informal workforce that scavenges the landfills for reusable materials. Muniz's hope was that his work at the Jardim Gramacho would not only bring awareness to the plight of these individuals, but also expose the catadores to the possibility of beauty within the junk. Their collaboration and Muniz's two-year stay in Brasil was documented by Lucy Walker's film Waste Land released in October 2010.