Why I Am Attracted To Trash

An Image of an old woman walking by an old piano set out on the crb for trash


Trash Day is the day that I carry my a camera with me wherever I go. People throw away some really cool stuff! I’m like a little boy when it comes to refuse.My childhood counterpart and I would forage through a pile of broken lawnmower engines that were discarded by the park groundskeepers in common dream  of building a go-cart. We would bring home an engine at a time and disassemble it  with our father’s tools only to determine, we had no idea how to put it back together let alone how to fix it. But we would spend hours and hours in our garages working on these junk engines like Mario Andretti’s pit crew. Whenever I walk my dogs down in the park along Tacony Creek, I am on the look out for nuggets of fools golden garbage to use in my still life images.

I’m not a psychologist, but, as that enterprising little boy, I always viewed junk as what it could be. As an adult I look  at junk and imagine a story of how the object(s) came to be. Like Looney Tunes’ Ralph Phillips. As an adult, a photographer, an artist, I imagine or see a story of how an object  came to be. Therefore to me, every piece of junk has a story. It’s my goal to invoke a story, any story, from my images of trash, junk, refuse.

Every Monday morning I drive my daughter to her school. It just happens that Trash day is on Mondays in her school’s Philadelphia neighborhood. Last Monday, as we headed to school, my daughter said, “Look. a piano.” So after I dropped her off at school, I swung back to take some pictures of it.

An image of an old piano set out on the curb for trash by Rusty Smith

An old Piano set out on the curb for trash…Interesting to me. Settings aperture f/1, ISO 200, shutter 1/50sec, hand held in aperture priority mode.


An image of a the keyboard of a Fayette S. Cable Piano left out on the curb for trash.

Fayette S. Cable Piano Company: The keyboard of the piano. taken at aperture f/5.6, ISO 200, shutter at 1/100 sec, in aperture priority mode, hand held.


My focus point changed to the foreground featuring the grunge dripping on the piano’s left side, in a portrait orientation. The opposite view of the key board of a Fayette S. Cable piano set out on the curb for trash. Settings, aperture f/5.6 ISO 200, Shutter 1/50 sec handheld in aperture priority.


Am image of an old woman after passes behind a piano which was set out on the curb for trash.

As I started to lose my sunlight, an old woman walks past the piano. I snapped off 10 shots of her as she walked past the piano (below). All you i could see of the woman behind the piano was her head, I found the most interesting shot was after the woman passed by exposing that she had no socks on, hands tucked into her jacket sleeves, dressed in black. Is the woman older than the piano? She is wearing men’s clothes. Are her clothes her husband’s..late husbands? Her distressed posture is very similar to the distressed condition of the piano. Settings aperture f/11, shutter 1/200 sec in aperture priority mode hand held.


an image of A Screen grab of Adobe Lightroom's film strip showing the sequence of my burst of shots while the woman walks behind the piano.

A screen grab of Adobe Lightroom’s film strip showing the sequence of my burst of shots while the woman walks behind the piano.


an image of a woman and a child approaching a piano that was set out on the curb as trash

My final image before I lost all of the sun to the trees behind me. I captured a little bit of soft sunlight on the woman and the child but only their feet. That’s the game when taking candid street images. Settings aperture f/11, shutterspeed 1/160 sec, ISO 200, in aperture priority and hand held


My daughter by saying “piano” , resulted in 199 images shot of this seemingly non-eventful passing of a piano sitting on the curb on trash day. I always wonder what story this piano owns. How did it get here? What has it seen? It must have been in a saloon and how many fights did it see and what people played it?

“Ralph! Ralph Phillips!”

“Your daydreaming again!”

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