Colourful castaways: One man’s trash

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Stuart Haygarth walked along the entire coast of southern England, from Gravesend to Land’s End, picking up the discarded rubbish he found with the goal of collecting every man-made synthetic item that washed up on the shore.

Haygarth gathers discarded or overlooked objects and elevates them into art, making exquisite artefacts and stunning installations out of common trash and everyday waste.

Combs, lighters and baby dolls, plastic balls, toys, containers and shoes were just some of the many objects he found on the 500-mile trip.

Back in the studio, he categorised each one by type and colour before arranging them into precise compositions and photographing them for a new art book called Strand – the Old English and German word for ‘beach’.

A small sample of some of the toys collected along the way

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The objects form an archive of sorts, a fragmented narrative of unknown people’s lives, as well as a material document of Haygarth’s journey.

But his beautiful pictures tell another tale too: the story of our reckless pollution of the environment, for each of these manufactured objects has been thrown away and carried by the world’s oceans and seas. They are the flotsam and jetsam of daily life.

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Award-winning academic and nature writer Robert Macfarlane considers the photographs of Strand as evidence of our pollution of the planet with ever-growing mountains of plastic waste, while Deyan Sudjic, director of the Design Museum, discusses Haygarth’s work as part of the tradition of artists, including Marcel Duchamp, Andy Warhol and Joseph Cornell, who collected found objects in order to make art.

Strand is published by Art / Books in April 2016, £28.00 hardback, www.artbookspublishing.co.uk

All images: Stuart Haygarth.

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