Vision of a Wasteland

The abstract destructions of the original landscape are a commentary on the toxicity of our consumer culture.

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This piece originally appeared in the Sage Magazine 2017 Print Edition: Justice Out of Place.


Until the mid-1940s, the Freshkills area of Staten Island, New York consisted mainly of coastal marshes and tidal creeks. In 1948, the land was opened as a landfill. Though it was originally intended only for temporary use, the facility grew until it eventually accepted all of New York City’s waste. Today, the Freshkills Park land reclamation project is a tremendous effort to revitalize the landscape, improve water quality, fortify the coastline, and reclaim the space for local residents and wildlife.

When visiting the landfill earlier on in its transformation period, I noticed how beautiful the landscape was, with open space and the New York skyline along the horizon. It occurred to me, though, that this incredible and vast view was only possible because of the mounds of trash that accumulated over time. I was standing upon years of New York City’s built up waste. I took a few photos to capture the quiet calm of the site, and then placed the film negatives in the trash for several weeks, letting the collective liquids and residue from the garbage alter the physical image. The negative serves as a representation of the land that has interacted with this waste over time, which leaves its mark underneath the surface. The abstract destructions of the original landscape are a commentary on the toxicity of our consumer culture, for both our land and our own human health.

Andrea Ibarra

Andrea Ibarra

Andrea Ibarra is a Brooklyn-based visual artist and graduate of The New School. She uses experimental photography to explore her passion for science, and creates abstraction using the often-overlooked chemical reactions that are a part of our everyday lives.

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