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Photographer Carll Goodpasture took a photograph of his family's backyard compost heap every week for seven years. His Compost series (2010) consists of both black and white and colour photos taken using a large format camera that provides highly detailed clarity.

The inspiration behind this series of photos, which consists of 350 photos, is the 350.org protest group founded by Bill McKibben in 2008. He is the author of The End of Nature (1989), one of the first books on global warming. The number 350 refers to climate researcher James Hansen who believes that if we wish to preserve the planet as it is, then carbon dioxide emissions need to be reduced to 350 ppm (parts per million). They are currently over 400 ppm.

Goodpasture says that his images sort of document "one family's 'every day' interactions with the natural world via consuming food, celebrating with flowers and maintaining a garden." This creates a tangible picture of our lives that include both holidays and weekdays, but also a picture of how we as individuals and families throw away waste that decomposes and thus releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

However, his photographs are also so much more than simply a daily "record" of emissions. They are beautiful studies of all the waste: a beautiful of concoction of lilies, sunflowers, carcasses and fish bones. It's chaotic, but it is rather delightful to study and discover all the individual components in each picture.

Goodpasture's photographs also evoke associations with the still life genre and its memento mori message, "remember you must die." It reminds the viewer about the fragility of life and the planet and that time is running out for us.

This text has been taken from an essay written for the exhibition catalogue by Christine Hansen, the co-curator of the exhibition.

  • A picture of compost that contains both rotting flowers and a dead bird. The photograph is appearing both beautiful and grotesk.
    © Carll Goodpasture, Tjeld from the series Compost, 16.7.2009. Preus museum Collection
Museum24:Portal - 2024.05.06
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