The Story Behind the Image: How (And Why) Photographer Jody Dole Turns Landfill Trash Into Award-Winning Art


Nope, editorial and advertising photographer Jody Dole doesn’t go down to the dump to look for subject matter. He’s more a flea market and tag sale type, and it was at the former that he met a picker who had, in Dole’s words, “really interesting junk—and an eye for interesting things.” Which is why Dole stops by at the guy’s place now and then, or vice versa, and an interesting thing or two changes hands.

Dole’s longtime attraction to the shapes and textures of objects, and how those features will play out in his studio for a client’s need or a personal project, has resulted in a storage room full of neatly organized, carefully categorized junk.

Not long ago Dole’s wife and sons staged an intervention. “Get rid of some of this,” they urged. Dole had a different idea: “I’m going to go through it, choose a few things and photograph them. Then I’m going to submit the photos to one of the most prestigious photography contests in the country.”

He laid everything out in his studio—it took two days—and selected some items. Ultimately seven images went off to Graphis magazine as entries in their 2015 photography competition. Back came a Silver Award in the Still Life category.

Six of the photos are here: a bucket, a boot, an unidentified wooden object, a rusted toaster, a pump impeller, and part of a pulley. All were balanced on white glass and front lit by a 1200-watt HMI constant light; two 4000-watt strobes flashed light onto the background white wall.

The rest of the junk? Still in his studio storeroom, waiting its turn.

Tech Talk: Jody Dole used a Hasselblad 500 ELX fitted with a Phase One P 45+ digital back and a Carl Zeiss Makro-Planar CF 120mm f/4 lens to capture this collection. The manual exposure settings were 1/4 second, f/16, ISO 50.