Where are you from?

A self-documentary on origins and connections

by Leanne Yanabu

What does this have to do with where I'm from? I didn't come from a dumpster...
But I do wonder if we're not collectively going to end up in one.


My fascination with dumpsters began when I spent two years in Mali with Peace Corps. There were no such thing as dumpsters in rural Mali. People didn't have much stuff. What they did have got used and reused. Most of what they threw out was organic waste, like rice chaff and mango peels, which got picked over by the roving donkeys and goats. The only things that didn't disintegrate on the trash piles were batteries and plastic bags.

When I returned to the U.S. I was amazed by two things: supermarkets and dumpsters. Walking down the aisles of Wal-mart blew my mind. And dumpsters! I couldn't believe there were so many dumpsters!

It amazed me that there were so many dumpsters and we paid so little attention to them. We see them every day but, thinking them dirty and unimportant, we do not pay attention to them. Yet they really are important. Try not throwing anything away for one day and see.

I started photographing dumpsters. I originally intended to make a collection of different dumpsters, showing the different colors they come in, the different places they were found, how some of them were in pristine condition and some were totally beat up, and so forth.

I started to really notice dumpsters. I became sort of sensitized to them. You know how you get introduced to someone for the first time, and then it seems like you see them pop up all over the place? Dumpsters were like that. There they were, peeking around the corner. Or hanging out near the vacant lot. Wow, a whole group of them in the alley!

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