Recently I was introduced to the CEO of a recycling company who welcomed me to visit and photograph a scrap yard that I had long been familiar with, but until that point had unable to gain access to. Soon after that meeting, I was escorted about a vast terrain strewn with all manner of metal shapes and forms. Organized by type, scrap metal was gathered in small mountains throughout the site. While the overall landscape was fascinating to look at, I found the clutter distracting. By taking closer looks within the jumble, I discovered chance arrangements of metal which suggested a kind of gestural intention. A few of these photographs directly reference drawing and others were consciously influenced by Frank Stella’s Bird wall reliefs. Sculptors such as David Smith and John Chamberlain have worked with metal junk and certainly these artists could be seen to have influenced my appreciation for scrap metal.
My photographs of scrap metal are a natural evolution of earlier work where I had looked at construction materials and industrial detritus. In that work my subjects, photographed in the landscape, seemed to take on the qualities of sculpture, earthworks and minimalist art. Moving my lens closer to the scrap metal meant eliminating the context of the landscape, but in doing so, an order was extracted from the visual chaos.
– Jan Staller, New York City