Into the Bin

A third of the food produced in the world ends up as waste, out of sight and out of mind. Yet the economic and ecological effects of the waste in food, time, and other resources remain. To make matters worse, the binned food is often perfectly edible. Italian photographer Filippo Zambon (b. 1981) bring to light the cover-ups and conflicts surrounding food waste.

The amount of global food waste is so vast that its near invisibility borders on the inconceivable. Finally, more open discussion of the subject has begun, spawning activist movements, restaurants that utilise discarded food, and even festivals. Still, however, binning of food and ‘dumpster-diving’ to retrieve edible items from among the rubbish both continue in the shadows, taking place in the grey areas of law and morality.

Operating somewhere between photojournalism and contemporary art, Zambon started to document his own dumpster-diving spontaneously. Gradually the photographs evolved as he began seeking a more fitting approach to the topic. He ended up shooting the items he found without staging the scene or tampering with the discarded food. The waste is surprisingly easy on the eye: illuminated by nothing but a handheld torch, it appears aesthetically pleasing and delicious, like the food items in still lives painted during the Dutch Golden Age. Zambon was surprised by how beautiful the insides of a rubbish bin could be: ‘It’s like opening a fridge with arugula and tomatoes neatly filling the shelves. It shows us how affluent our society is. The food we throw out is much better than the food being sold in many other countries.’

In the exhibition Into the Bin, Zambon gives us, through his personal experience, an intimate view of the hushed-up topic of food waste. Dumpster-diving to meet his own needs established the context for the works, but Zambon also wanted to make the photographs visually appealing. He sees the possibility that aesthetically pleasing images might persuade the viewer to get informed about the topic. He hopes that photographing this seldom-visible phenomenon may spark more public debate.

From the text of the magazine of the Festival of Political Photography


Into the Bin, Exhibition view during the Festival of Political Photography. Virka Gallery, Helsinki 2017