If you visit the Instagram page for Polina Washington’s new project Solution, you’ll see only three words: “trash and nature.” And that’s exactly what the St. Petersburg photographer has chosen to shoot. In fact, she’s gone out of her way to observe human detritus and environmental fragments– in other words, all the things she once thought we never worth her time.
Looking back, Washington describes her old life as “totally stressful.” She had to escape the city and its noise in order to find any sense of reconciliation with her surroundings. The sublime was to be discovered in wild, pristine landscapes– not her own backyard.
The Solution series became a literal solution to the problem of feeling frustrated and trapped. It started with the simple decision not to leave home without her camera, even if she was just taking her dog out for a walk. In a series of tiny revelations, Washington noticed the grace and charm of even the most banal details of her daily routine.
“I was absolutely shocked to see how the prism of my perception transformed as soon as I focused on this series,” the artist remembers. None of the images or even their subjects are pre-arranged. The process is spontaneous, and that’s what makes it such a delight.
Now, it’s easy for Washington to get lost in the accidental design of things. She’s spent hours wandering and reflecting on the strange collisions between humankind and our environment. She knows her pictures are about the marks we leave on the natural landscape, but Solution isn’t about the damage we do to the landscape. It’s about those rare and peculiar instances when disparate elements to come together to tell a kind of visual joke.
Though Washington does in fact have a larger statement for Solution, her Instagram bio is perfect and concise. “Trash” and “nature” might seem like two warring entities, on opposite ends of a spectrum, but Washington reveals a more complicated reality.
As it turns out, the English word “trash” can be traced back to the Old Norse word tros, meaning “fallen leaves and twigs.” In some ways, then, trash and nature are part of the same cycle of life, death, and rebirth, and that’s what Washington has captured here. When describing her experience of making these pictures, she uses words like “symbiosis” and “pure harmony.”
All images © Polina Washington