f you look at enough photographs of disasters, you will see people posing with high water marks. It is a genre of photography onto itself: over and over, they will point to the mark, put their bodies in front of the mark, or photograph the high water line alone. This post explores the possible roles that the visual culture of post-disaster high water marks play, especially given the prevalence of the genre across disasters, geography, and time.
Not only do natural (and unnatural) disasters produce a lot of waste, they are also extreme but oddly quintessential events where practices, behavior, and cultures around waste and wasting, as well as their inverse–repairing, fixing, rebuilding–move to the fore. In the weeks proceeding and following the one year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy making landfall in New York City and surrounding area, Discard Studies will feature a series of articles about the complexities of disaster and waste, broadly defined. This article looks at the material and emotional nature of waste during disaster.