Mapping a Community through its Trash

Antique shops, used clothing stores, and thrifts stores. Most people will agree that a stop at one of these is like a mini adventure. But what most people probably don’t think of, is how the content of these stores reflect the community around it. This idea is what drives the research of Ralph Mills. As a photographer, Mills’ current project involves visiting charity shops and photographing objects he finds, particularly porcelain figures. As he goes about his project, Mills hopes to find patterns in the shops he visits.

I think that Mills has discovered a very creative way of thinking about thrift shops and their roles in a community. These shops serve a collection point for locals to deposit possessions that no longer have a purpose in their lives. By observing what type of items tend to appear in thrift shops, and how frequently, one can get a sense of what types of things the community doesn’t enjoy. Likewise, if one were to observe what types of items are purchased the most, one would be able tell what the community does treasure or wants in their lives.

This study could even get more in depth by recording the different demographics that come to the shop, and the items the drop off or purchase. This type of investigation would give a general idea towards some of the attitudes a community has.