As I was backing up I saw the heap of dumpsters outside the gas station in the mirror, and for some reason they intrigued me. That image of literal garbage captured in my rear-view mirror struck me as dramatic. So I created the challenge of dedicating a whole roll of film to just dumpsters.
The parameters were simple: the whole roll would be the project and I could only take one picture of each dumpster. No re-dos. Also, because of trespassing issues, I could only take the pictures from public spaces (parking lots, sidewalks, etc.) It took a while to find the time to dedicate a whole roll to one subject. Eventually I loaded a roll of Kodak T-Max 100 into my Canon AE-1 and set out. I chose T-Max 100 because I love street photography in black and white and also because I live on the border with Mexico where it is incredibly sunny nearly all the time.
I initially started with the dumpsters as the subjects. After about five dumpsters I actually got bored and realized this challenge was not as cool and edgy as I thought it would be. I shifted gears and allowed myself to capture any public trash receptacle and expanded the scene so that the dumpster could be part of the shot, not just the subject. I started to look for situations that included the dumpsters with other interesting subjects, such as the abandoned shopping cart in image six or the 160-year-old cemetery in image 13. As I drove around I found it interesting where trash cans were placed and started to think about this when looking for shots like 19 and 20.
The problems with my Canon AE-1 occurred around the 6th or 7th shot. I have had the issue in the past where all of a sudden the internal battery meter would read that the voltage was too low to fire the shutter, even with a brand new battery. After this malfunction occurred, I pulled the battery out, put it back in, pressed the battery meter a few times and it magically popped back into action. I continued to have the same issue as the day drove on but was able to overcome it as I proceeded.
I drove around El Paso, TX for about three hours before getting exhausted and having 22 shots of the 36 exposure roll. I returned home and set the camera away for the next weekend. When I set out to take pictures the following weekend I was plagued by the same battery issue, although this time nothing I did could remedy it. Defeated and angry, I wound the roll and called it good.
Upon development I discovered 5 blank frames. The development lab I use (State Film Lab out of Louisville, KY) said the frames were blank on the film. Since the AE-1 is an SLR I know that the lens cap wasn’t on when I shot them, so there had to be a malfunction with the shutter release button and the shutter actually releasing. Nonetheless, those images are lost forever.
Maybe after I troubleshoot and repair the AE-1 I’ll try this project again. Driving around my city for 3 hours straight was a bit exhausting, so I may try to break it up into more sessions or use a 24-exposure roll. Even though it was more tiring than I imagined, it gave me a little bit more confidence in my street photography skills.
Not only did I only shoot 22/36 frames, but five of them are just blank. Below are the results of my project.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy.