As a young man in Brazil, the artist Vik Muniz was shot in the leg whilst trying to break up a fight. With the compensation money he travelled to New York city and he has lived and worked there ever since. He is now one of the world’s most influential artists, creating striking and witty images from recognisable non-art materials such as sugar, diamonds, chocolate and dust.
For his latest project, Vik travelled back to Brazil and spent three years with a group of Catadores – self designated pickers of recyclable materials, on the world’s largest landfill in Rio De Janeiro. Using the very materials that their lives depended on, Vik produced huge portraits of the pickers, photographed them, and sold the finished prints at auction. All the proceeds were then given back to the Catadores to help fund the recycling industry that they themselves had created.
A movie documentary of the project called Waste Land is now available to rent on iTunes and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Not just because it is one of the most fascinating and uplifting documentaries in recent years, but as the world seemingly crumbles around us it is perhaps re-asuring to know that there are people like the Catadores of Brazil who, with a little help from Vik Muniz, are helping to build it back up again.