This Lower East Side Photographer Spent a Year Chronicling Local Can Collectors

Posted on: May 28th, 2015 at 5:15 am by

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Photo: Catjia Rehkamp

Roughly nine years ago, we stumbled upon two elderly Chinese women reduced to fisticuffs while fighting over a can of refuse outside 88 Orchard Street. The two bottle collectors were battling over the rights to the cash-refundable contents within the trash. After the scuffle was broken up, both left the scene as if nothing happened. From that point on, we’ve often studied the phenomenon and chronicled this subculture.

Local photographer Catjia Rehkamp was similarly piqued. Her new photography installation, “Out Caste,” is a documentary series that delves into “Manhattans community of invisible women who gather bottles from our refuse for pennies.” Her chronicled work is on view beginning tonight at SMV Gallery Space at the Church of St. Mary’s the Virgin just off Times Square. You can check it out through June 24.

More on “Out Caste”:

Shot throughout the LES, East Village, Chinatown and Soho over the course of seventeen months framing raw humility and very dramatic, broken absence.  The images portray struggle and innocence participating visually and disconnected from communication out casted in her presence.

I found it impossible to accept this reality exists in one moment and in another recovering fascinated by their capacity for front lining a sustainable governance.  Why don’t we recognize the widely prevalent bottle queens who are epic purveyors of a baton a worldwide tradable financial asset? Why do we lower our eyes not allowing ourselves to feel the anguish in our stomachs.

This is the first time I have stepped behind the lens.

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