ON THE SCREEN Blogs about trash have a wide-ranging, if filthy, pedigree. At one end are the fun and highly focused sites like Street Mattress (founded in 2001 and still posting pictures of discarded Posturepedics.) At the other are more academically minded ruminations on refuse, like Discard Studies, started in August. Last Night’s Garbage occupies a space between these two poles. Photographs of trash dominate the blog and provide its author, Jed Tamarkin, with inspiration for writing short bits of fiction.
The blog, which gets about 25,000 page views a month, has evolved since Mr. Tamarkin began shooting pictures outside his East Village apartment in the summer of 2007. Each photo was accompanied by text describing a fictional character with some relationship to whatever toy or commode or stroller happened to be lying on the street as Mr. Tamarkin passed by with his Canon point-and-shoot. (“There’s a lot of baby strollers for some reason,” he said.) Tags along the right side of the blog chronicle some of the recurring characters. There is Ross, a hard-drinking artist with relationship troubles; Stef, a chatty and celebrity-obsessed young woman; and Bobby, a drug-addled musician. There are also people who appeared only once, tossed off like so many old items of clothing.
More recently, Mr. Tamarkin began pairing photographs with reposted bits of content to create “a nudge and a rib” about the wastefulness of consumer culture. In a post from July, an excerpt from a “CBS News” article about a man who was fined for taking garbage off the street runs underneath a photograph of a destroyed air-conditioner. The juxtaposition is funny and seems to carry a subtle message: Not all trash is someone else’s treasure; most of it just ends up in the landfill.
BEHIND THE SCREEN “I was on the first floor, and there was garbage accumulating everywhere,” Mr. Tamarkin, 31, an advertising art director, said of the apartment that provided early grist for the blog. His window faced a shaft at the rear of the building, where years of refuse had caked into the concrete. “I had crazy rat problems,” he said. (He now lives in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.)
He started taking photographs simply to document the situation for the building’s management company, but pretty soon, he said, “it got me seeing trash in a new way, actually looking at it.” The lines, forms and colors of an ordinary pile of garbage started to resemble sculpture, and the blog began as a kind of ode to what he came to see as the city’s accidental artists. Mr. Tamarkin attaches more than the usual sentimental value to things, which may account for his interest in recreating back stories for other people’s castoffs. “My wife, I think, would call me a pack rat,” he said.
Though much of Last Night’s Garbage is from the East Village, Mr. Tamarkin carries his camera around with him, and lately has been posting about once a week. The neighborhoods where pictures are taken are not specified on the site, and appear to be beside the point. “This blog is based out of New York City,” he said, “but it could be anywhere.”