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waste not, want not

Lauren Copelan

Artist Statement

waste not, want not is a series of photographs exploring waste in a consumer society. The images are composed of alluring chaos and constant motion, all tied together with the low saturation of color film. In addition to creating aesthetically pleasing images from trash, waste not, want not forces the viewer to be more critical and encourages self-inquiry when it comes to their own consumption and wastefulness, as well as allowing me to acknowledge the irony in my own work. Both the process and production of the series reinforces the constant production/consumer cycle - adding an additional element for the audience to consider.

The images in waste not, want not were shot using a large format camera and color film. The 4x5 negatives produced by large format photography allow for crisp detail and high resolution prints without taking away from the image. After development, the negative is scanned and ready for printing with only minor adjustments needed. Film is a purist medium, letting me to capture exactly what I am seeing with little to no interference to the image. That being said, the large format allows me to follow the conceptual footprint of Barry Rosenthal and the formal influences of Thomas Struth and Chris Jordan while producing a body of work that is encouraging both self-awareness and a critical view on the way we treat our environment. This series of discarded materials and trash not only poses a moral question, but also draws the viewer’s eye in a way that is unusual of the subject matter.

While my work is usually industrial in nature, this series stemmed from an exploration of industrial waste. As I was shooting at a metal recycling plant, I came across mountains of discarded plastic and metals. As the exploration continued, I started drawing from different types of waste - the most interesting to me being consumer waste. There are six images in the series, all containing different types of trash. The far ends are composed of lateral lines, moving the viewer toward the center image, which features an elaborate pile of construction waste. Each image feature a different type of waste, all of which are common in our daily lives. The type of waste varies, as does the method of recycling. My goal was to explore multiple areas of wastefulness in our lives: industrial, consumer, household, and urban.

Much like the majority of people in our society, I am a participant in this consumer cycle. waste not, want not is a series meant to challenge not only my audience, but myself as well, into taking a deeper look at exactly what it is and how much we waste on a regular basis. I hope that my viewers will begin making conscious choices in their lives while also taking the time to stop and appreciate the more unsightly things on a daily basis.


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31 Jul 2022
1.26 MB



  • Journal title
    • Papers & Publications

  • Volume
    • 7

  • Issue
    • 1

  • Date submitted

    31 July 2022

  • Keywords
  • Additional information
    • Acknowledgements:


      Author Biography:

      Lauren Copelan is a Visual Arts Educator and artist from North Georgia. She has been making art for 15+ years, focusing on photography, textiles, and illustration. Copelan’s work primarily features observational subject matter and social issues. Copelan hold a B.A. in Studio Art from the University of North Georgia with a concentration in Film Photography and Darkroom Production and is current M.A.T. Candidate at Piedmont College.

      Graduation Date:

      May 2017