The Art of the Personal Project is a crucial element to let potential buyers see how you think creatively on your own. I am drawn to personal projects that have an interesting vision or that show something I have never seen before. In this thread, I’ll include a link to each personal project with the artist statement so you can see more of the project. Please note: This thread is not affiliated with any company; I’m just featuring projects that I find. Please DO NOT send me your work. I do not take submissions.
Today’s featured artist: Tom Barnes
The Pemulung are scavengers, working on the dumps in Indonesia scouring through the waste to try and collect plastic to sell, or anything they can use. They work outside under brutal conditions, the smell is horrendous, and the heat unrelenting and they have no protective equipment. There is no shade apart from homemade shacks, and they work constantly – the sites operate 24 hours a day. With heavy machinery and ground giving way underfoot means it’s an incredible hazardous job and that is before we start talking about the trash they are picking apart.
Aiming to collect plastic to sell for processing, the Pemulung can earn about 6000RP/kg (Indonesian Rupiah) which is about £0.34/kg. If they find other things, they can use or sell that’s a bonus, and many have collected makeshift building materials and created shacks to live in on the dump. Their homemade carriers and tools help them to pick through the rubbish, tear open bags and carry huge amounts of plastic down the mountains of rubbish to sell.
This series shows the Pemulung as they go about their daily work on the dumps, working in the most miserable of conditions but always smiling. The scavengers work backbreaking long shifts in the worst possible conditions, surrounded by rotting rubbish they have some of the most resilient immune systems in the world and rarely get ill.
The portraits were taken at three major landfills, Bantar Gebang (Java, servicing Jakarta), Piyungan (Java, servicing Yogyakarta) and Suwung (Bali, servicing Denpasar) Each of the landfills differed in size and number of workers, Bantar Gebang is the largest of the three, at 200 acres and it is thought that over 100,000 people live on the dump.
I have to say a huge thanks to the wonderful people who stopped to have their portraits taken; you really are some of the most incredible people I have ever met. A massive thanks to Dery, Yusak and the local crews we met along the way, and thank you to the staff at the dumps for allowing us to shoot.
This was by far an away the toughest personal project I have undertaken. The conditions are terrible and the heat was unbelievable, I also dislocated my knee in one of the dumps trying to get out of the way of a charging bull, I need to say a special thank you to everyone at Piyungan dump who helped dragged me to safety, my fixers and the staff at Jogja Main hospital for resetting everything.
To see more of this project, click here.
APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s. After establishing the art buying department at The Martin Agency, then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies, she decided to be a consultant in 1999. She has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information because she believes that marketing should be driven by brand and not by specialty. Follow her at @SuzanneSease. Instagram
Success is more than a matter of your talent. It’s also a matter of doing a better job presenting it. And that is what I do with decades of agency and in-house experience.