Art Nerd New York | Los Angeles

Studio Visit: Barry Rosenthal and his collection of trash at Chashama

Self portrait of Photographer, Barry Rosenthal.

When visiting photographer Barry Rosenthal‘s studio at Chashama’s Brooklyn Army Terminal, I wondered whether I’d walk in to find the space strewn with his massive collection of curated trash (safe to say: spotless). Although the space was immaculate, the collection of colorful pieces he liberates from the shores of Queens and Brooklyn sit in organized bags on high shelves at either end of the studio.

barrystudio

To me, Rosenthal’s works are a fusion of studio photography, installation art and environmental awareness, organized and designed so perfectly that at first glance, I confuse the scene for a collection of vintage treasures. The mismatched shoe soles, detergent bottles, vintage glass, vintage cans, plastic silverware, various sports balls, colorful plastic tampon applicators, remnants of children’s toys and general post-consumer trash are all hand collected by Rosenthal, who has made a habit of visiting New York area beaches to clean up ocean-born trash, which doubles as inspiration for his unique still life photographs. In a literal depiction of one man’s trash being another man’s treasure, Rosenthal sometimes holds onto a collection of relatable garbage pieces, until the perfect addition emerges, allowing the proposed photograph to be complete. (As of now, he also keeps many of the already photographed collections, just in case).

2012_10_13_fin_+0001_600pix green plastic and glass containers on black background

At an aesthetic level, his photographs are soothing, with continuous tones played up in vibrant colors. I’m relaxed at the collections of similarly shaped objects organized together, with perfect spacing and perspective, some in jewel tones that betray the objects’ true nature of being trash. At a more cerebral level, wow- what a way to look at our garbage differently, or more important, what we are throwing out, and how it pollutes our local waterways. Over half of what Rosenthal collects is either recyclable or reusable, dumped somewhere that eventually makes its way to the abandoned beaches and fields where he goes for inspiration.

barry-work+gloves Shoes on black background

Rosenthal’s work was two fold for me, enticing my design side, but then leaving me with a morality lesson and inspiration to take action to be responsible about recycling and cleaning up the environment- and not let any of my belongings end up in one of his photographs.

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