Plastic Waste

Through my documentary photography I explore the human condition and the individual paths people take on their journey. Photography for me, has been an exploration of self-discovery as I tend towards issues that have affected me personally. My hope is always to raise an awareness and open the door for conversation.

Plastic waste picked up along Hamlin Beach

Plastics: Our Human Waste has been an education unlike no other. The evolution of this project came about due to my anxiety over litter. It seemed to me that many of the issues I document have

Go Green, Braddock Heights Beach
Black Plastic, Braddock Heights Beach

no concrete solutions. Litter on the other hand seems an easy fix. Don’t litter. Recycle. Pick it up. I am now aware that it is not that easy. My approach to Plastics came about after spending a day at Hamlin Beach along the shore of Lake Ontario. Looking around I was blown away at the amount of litter washed up. This wasn’t just any old litter, it was all plastic.

Bottle caps in all colors and sizes are strewn across our parks and beaches. To be recycled, a plastic cap must be kept on the bottle otherwise it is considered a contaminant. Caps get into our waterways most often by way of littering. Littered bottle caps are washed into storm drains, making their way into bodies of water. Eventually breaking down, the plastic become false food for marine life. Photo by Daryl Thaler. #KeepTheCapAttached

Picking up this plastic as though it were sea glass, I started sorting by color, shapes, and size. Working my way through Braddock, Durand and Webster beaches picking up plastic became a daily routine. The enormous amount of multi-colored plastic waste became overwhelming.

Plastic tampon applicators are abundant along Lake Ontario beaches. Photo by Daryl Thaler. #Refuse

Researching plastic in Lake Ontario was scary:

In 2012 and 2013 NGO 5 Gyres sampled areas of Lake Ontario, they recorded levels of plastic as high as 1.1 million particles per square km. – NOW Toronto News

Alex Mifflin of NOW Toronto states, “Just like the infamous garbage patches of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, our own backyard has been turned into a plastic soup – only our lakes have even higher concentrations of plastics than the biggest ocean garbage patches.

Plastic debris recovered by Juan Pablo Munoz’s marine biology lab at the GAIAS Institute in the Galápagos Islands. Photo by Ben McLauchlin

I raised an awareness within my own family. Thinking we have a relatively small footprint, I was so wrong, plastic is used in every facet of our lives. It is my hope that these images alongside the actual plastic collected from the shores of Lake Ontario will raise an awareness in you.

Sea life sculptures made from discarded plastic found in Binghamton, NY by Ben McLauchlin

Saturday, August 19th, I will be hosting an Artist Talk on Plastics: Our Human Waste at the Flower City Arts Center. I have several guests joining me to include photographers who participated in documenting plastic and litter Jacalyn Meyvis and Erica Jae, my husband, Daryl Thaler who ventured out with me weekly collecting plastic waste along beaches and Ben McLauchlin, a Rochester native and Binghamton University student focusing on environmental studies and graphic design. Ben has participated in research in the Galapagos Islands studying plastic and will be talking about his experiences as well as sharing his images.

While at the talk you can check out images of plastic collected along Lake Ontario beaches and litter from Rochester area parks, the actual plastic that was swimming in the lake, and some cool artwork created by local artisans from the plastic.

Mermaid created out of plastic waste found along Lake Ontario beaches, by Kelly Cheatle of Airigami Balloon Creations

Remember: Reduce. Recycle. Reuse. Refuse.

Interview with Kristy Bianchi

Last week we launched our second online exhibition: Public Market by Kristy Bianchi. I initially reached out to Kristy after viewing her photographs from Arleen Thaler’s ROC Photo Map project. The way she captured color and form, her attention to detail, the stories she told – I wanted to see more!

Megan Charland: I was surprised to learn that you only recently started working in photography. What made you decide to pick up a camera? Can you talk a little about your training?

Kristy Bianchi: In the past I’ve played around with point and shoot cameras, but never got the photography bug until about a year and a half ago. I’ve spent years curating and incorporating other peoples images for graphic design projects, but not my own. That’s probably what made me realize it was time to learn how to use a camera and expand my skill set. Taking Karl Heinz Kremer’s beginner Digital SLR class at Flower City Arts Center was one of the best decisions I ever made. Ever since then I’ve been working on learning as much as I can, taking different classes at the Arts Center, and just going out shooting. It’ll be a life long process, and its been enjoyable every step of the way.

MC: With your background in graphic design, how do you think that work influences your photography?

KB: It definitely helped train my eye, giving me a good grasp on composition. Teaching me the value of negative space, the rule of thirds, directing and capturing how the eye flows when looking at images, and how to focus on what the main message or subject is in an artful way.

MC: Browsing your website it looks like you primarily take a photo-journalistic approach to your subjects, can you talk about how you approach your subjects?

KB: I like to sit back and see what unfolds, but also dive in and take a 360 degree approach with my subjects, lighting, and environment. Sort of moving around until I see what works, trying to blend the three into a nice image.

MC: What’s next? Do you have any exciting projects coming up that you want to share?

KB: I’d like to work on some more complex photo composite projects. Some elaborate surreal/fantasy style portraits incorporating models, make-up, costumes, scouted locations, then edited in photoshop.

Going on photo walks with Arleen Thaler really opened up my eyes and taught me a lot, making me discover my love of street documentary style photography. There will be more of that in my future for sure.

I’m kind of obsessed with macro nature photography, and I want to get into commercial, editorial and video work.

So I’m kind of all over the place! Right now I’m dabbling in as many areas as I can, as time goes on I’ll have a better idea on what I want to focus on, so far I love all of it :).

Q: Do you have any advice for photographers just starting out?

A: Bring your camera everywhere you can, you never know what might catch your eye.

Take some classes learn the basics, don’t get overwhelmed with all the equipment out there.

Instagram is a great way to see whats going on and get your work seen. Most of all practice, experiment and have fun with it!

Join me: GEM Gallery Talk

Saturday, July 15, 2017, 1 p.m., George Eastman Museum
Please join me as I guide visitors on a tour of the exhibition The Run-On of Time, the first museum retrospective of Eugene Richards‘s work, while I share my own experience working in Rochester, New York as a photojournalist, photography artist-in residence and teaching artist at the Flower City Arts Center where I offer the Social Reportage class covering the issues that face our time while raising a visual awareness through thoughtful immersion.
Eugene Richards (American, b. 1944). Henry’s boots, Still House Hollow, Tennessee, 1986. Gelatin silver print. Collection of Eugene Richards. © Eugene Richards
Free to members; included with museum admission.
Saturday, July 15, 2017
1 p.m.
George Eastman Museum
Members Free

Photographing the same thing as everyone else

Something I have struggled with as a photographer before facilitating photography classes at the Genesee Center for the Arts and Education is photographing the same thing as everyone else. Be it a social event, festival, protest, etc., if there were others with a camera capturing images, I didn’t want to be one of them. Then I found myself instructing small groups of people in photo field trips, street photography and social reportage classes. Through this I learned to let go and jumped in, realizing each person sees the world through their own unique lens and though sometimes photos of the same subject by multiple photographers may look alike, they are very different.

An example can be seen on Canon’s The Lab: Decoy. Canon Australia devised The Lab, a series of experiments that are designed to take you out of your comfort zone, and get you thinking and shooting in a different way. Their first experiment involves having six photographers shoot the same man, but they are each told a different story about the actor’s background.

Each photographer having a different background history of the subject, who is an actor, may have helped the images to be different…more so than if each participant had met the subject and told nothing.

The Photo Field Trips are much the same way, we happen upon strangers around each corner, students engage while the story unfolds, each capturing different views of the same subject. Getting to know the person or persons you are photographing and listening to leaves very little room for judgement. Images become a part of the story, a gift to the socially engaged photographer, their subject and the viewer.

Giving Back Through Photography

There are so many ways to give back to your community; either through time or talent, it doesn’t cost a thing, and the return is pretty awesome. Some of the ways I have been able to give back using my photographic skills is by delivering images of people I have captured on the streets via a text or a Facebook message, volunteering photographing holiday portraits for local supper programs and most recently my husband and I are providing family portraits for the Heart Gallery. The Heart Gallery is a traveling photographic and audio exhibit created to find forever families for children in foster care. Through Children Awaiting Parents, volunteer photographers capture images of children and their newly adopted families, helping to raise an awareness of children needing homes….And my very favorite thing to do is to help raise awareness!

For photographers starting out or looking to hone their skills, volunteering is the perfect way to do just that. There can be a lot of stress photographing that paid gig, where perfection matters, volunteering offers you the flexibility to get creative while developing your talent. There are many opportunities such as, city schools, homeless shelters, not-for-profits and more, the benefits are mutually rewarding.

Help Support Our AIR Program

Megan Charland - Instagram @megancharland

If you follow me on Instagram then you’ll already know I participated in the George Eastman Museum’s Photo Finish 5K last weekend with my co-worker Amanda Chestnut. This annual fundraising event has raised over $100,000 so far this year to support various organizations and causes in our community. Here at Genesee Center we are raising funds to help support our Artist-in-Residency program. So far we have raised $610 out of our $1,500 goal. Donations are accepted through November 1st so please consider donating and helping us support these amazing artists!

Arleen Thaler

This year I am excited to have our very first Photography AIR – Arleen Thaler – join us for a 12 month residency. Arleen will be posting regularly to this blog giving us all an insight in to her photography practice.

Also, I already have our 2nd Photography AIR lined up! I’m thrilled to have Stephanie Mercedes join us this January for a 3-month residency. 2017 is going to be a busy exciting year here in the Photography program.

Interested in supporting our Artists-in-Residence? Donate >>