We humans leave our mark wherever we go: the high-tide line on a Mediterranean shore is a broad band of plastic bottles; a mountain of waste smolders in the Himalayas.
Nikolaus Geyrhalter previously pointed his patient observational camera at the food industry (Our Daily Bread, 2005), our burrowing into the Earth’s crust (Earth, 2019), and places shaped but now abandoned by humans (Homo Sapiens, 2016). In Matter Out of Place, he presents a world piling up with trash. Beautifully composed though the scenes surely are, the sight of the endless streams of waste is deeply dispiriting.
Fortunately, there are also people—professionals and volunteers—who are trying to do something about it. There’s the trash man riding his bicycle cart through the streets of Kathmandu, for example, and scuba divers performing an underwater ballet as they rid the Greek waters of car tires and scrap metal. In steady, extended shots, Geyrhalter shows the cleaners going about their work—inventively, and sometimes against all odds.