Philadelphia Photographers

The Former Clearview Landfill: Photographing a Superfund Site Using a Pinhole Camera Made of Garbage

I maintain a fine arts practice in addition to my commercial photography studio. This work is a continuation of a project I have posted about before entitled ‘The Waste Stream‘. 

For this project, I make photographs at former industrial waste sites that’ve been repurposed for recreational and residential use by humans. Each photograph for this project is created with a site-specific pinhole lens constructed using a piece of consumer waste I find at that particular location. The pinhole photography process results in diffraction and blurring of the scene which creates a permanent visual layer for the viewer to consider, and references the treatment of the land as an expendable commodity.

The first grouping was photographed at a “Blue Hole” in the Pine Barrens of southern New Jersey. “Blue Hole” is a local term for very old flooded sand or gravel mining quarries; they often date back to the 18th century. Bottoms lined with dangerous industrial waste, today these bodies of water have become popular swim holes and party spots for locals.

These particular images were made in Eastwick, a Philadelphia neighborhood built largely on and around the former Clearview Landfill. Selected in the 1950s for a large urban renewal project, construction was halted in the 1970s with only 30% of the planned houses having been built. The residents who bought these homes were unaware of the site’s former use; many got sick in the following decades. The EPA determined that much of the soil and groundwater around their properties had elevated levels of hazardous chemicals. The site was added to the Superfund National Priorities List (a list of the most highly polluted Superfund sites) in 2001, and is currently undergoing remediation.