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Trash Looks Beautiful In These Photos Of Perfectly Arranged Garbage

Litter polluting around a beach is inherently ugly—it’s violating a naturally beautiful space. But artist Barry Rosenthal has figured how to create photos of the mess that are strangely captivating.

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Trash on a beach looks like an uninviting mess. But when collected, sorted, arranged and photographed by Barry Rosenthal for his series "Found in Nature," it becomes captivating.

Our beaches are—quite literally—littered with trash. Last year, the Ocean Conservancy picked up more than 11 million pieces of garbage from beaches around the U.S. Rosenthal’s work puts this miasma of garbage into a setting that both minimizes the danger of the trash by beautifying it, but also codifies the nature of the problem with its scientific organization.

"The beach is my flea market and found objects my inspiration," Rosenthal writes in the statement for the photo series, which includes photos of plastic bottles, cups, lighters, bottle caps, and cutlery. The objects are more than an inspiration—they’re a medium whose power lies in the method of arrangement. White plastic bottles presented against a black background appear lively, jostling like individuals in a crowd. A mosaic of shoes is like peering at cells under a microscope slide.

The trash was collected from coastal parts of Brooklyn, Queens, and New Jersey. "I take a lot of stuff because I don’t know what I’m going to find or how it will work out later," Rosenthal told Co.Design. "I’d rather not judge what to take and what not. What I find influences what I’m going to do."