Day 7: Photographs on 14th Street

Monday and Tuesday were spent shooting video

On Wednesday morning I arrived on 14th Street at 07:30. I had organised with Joseph to accompany him from 14th Street to the recycling depot a few kilometers away.

When I arrived Joseph had not yet returned from his morning collecting. Godfrey said that he had told them I was coming and that he would be back around 08:30. I decided to walk up to Jan Hofmeyer Community Centre while I waited for him to return.

At 08:30 I spotted Joseph in the distance as I walked back towards 14th street. His trolley was almost full, mostly with empty plastic bottles and discarded appliance boxes.Once the rest of the group arrived, they would begin sorting through their finds.

The left hand side of the street, across from where Joseph stays, was covered in bottles and boxes. At the top of the street a small fire was raging and  a cloud of dark smoke drifted slowly into the street. It looked like an old computer monitor had been set alight. The piles may look like a cluttered mess to a passerby but for Joseph, it is a system that allows him and his fellow collectors to get more money. They work together to ensure everyone has a full trolley and therefore gets more money.

By 09:00 no one had arrived and Joseph asked if I would come back at 11:00. He want to go collect a bit more before they left. I asked if I could get a few photos before he left just in case. He agreed and began sorting what was in his trolley.

Joseph pauses to chat about what he will do if it starts to rain while sorting through his trolley. He says he will seek shelter under the mosque's balcony if the rain starts to get heavy.
Joseph pauses to chat about what he will do if it starts to rain while sorting through his trolley. He says he will seek shelter under the mosque’s balcony if the rain starts to get heavy.

I asked if I could pull the trolley before he emptied it. I wanted to experience what it was like to pull a recycling trolley to better understand what Joseph goes through everyday.

I expected the trolley to be heavy so I braced myself and gave it a strong, confident yank. It was surprisingly light, resulting in the trolley moving far more than I anticipated. I could hear Godfrey and the others sitting on the pavement laughing at me. I can only imagine how ridiculous I looked.

I went back to the community centre, they were peeling and cutting vegetables in preparation for lunch at 12. I sat down and helped chop potatoes. By the end we had a bucket of neatly cut potato cubes. I then went to help peel and clean out pumpkin. It’s crazy to think that the community centre staff do this tirelessly everyday.

When I returned at to Joseph at 11:00 he was sitting in a circle with Godfrey. He had not left for his second round of collection. He said they would be going to the depot the next day as they wanted to collect more.

I was disappointed that I could not follow them as planned but glad that I had managed to get a few shots of him sorting the trolley. I told him I would not be able to come back as I had to get the story done as soon as possible. I said I would come back when the story was published to give him a printed copy.




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