I first heard of the artist and photographer Vic Muniz when I was in college studying art history. Vic Muniz is a world renowned artist from Brazil artist who incorporates all kinds of objects like thread, diamonds, sugar, chocolate syrup and trash into his work to create ironic and bold images pulled from culture and art history. His series "Sugar Children" (a series of drawings made from sugar of children of parents who worked on the sugar plantations of St. Kitts) was the subject for an essay question on one of my tests. Even as a young artist, I was inspired by the unconventional materials and unique perspective Muniz had.
Back in 2010 the documentary Waste Land was released. It the follows Muniz from his home base in Brooklyn to his native Brazil into the world's largest garbage dump, Jardim Gramacho. It is there that he photographs a group of catadores or garbage pickers.
The catadores are a marginalized population who resort to picking valuable recyclable materials from the garbage thrown away by those in Brazil. Muniz's initial objective was to create portraits of the catadores from garbage but after meeting the amazing people who worked at the landfill, he decides to turn the project into a collaboration with the catadores themselves.
He photographs each of the pickers, gathers items from the dump and then working together they create large portraits made from trash on the floor of a warehouse. When the portraits are finished he photographs them, auctions them off and gives the money back to the catadores.
I first watched Wasteland back in 2011 and not a day has gone by in the last 3 years I don't think about about this movie. From witnessing the amazing stories and spirits of the catadores to watching Muniz create beauty from trash to seeing a successful artist give back WITH HIS ART makes this movie one of the most profound, powerful, uplifting, heartbreaking, creative, innovative and layered stories I've had the honor to watch. If there is any movie I could recommend to fellow artist or creative- THIS IS THE ONE!