by John Willis and Tom Young
with an conclusion by Martha A. Sandweiss
Near the homes of photographers John Willis and Tom Young is a paper mill that sits in the otherwise pristine and picturesque climes of western Massachusetts. For Willis and Young, this site is one of both aesthetic and philosophical contradictions: despite its verdant locale, the mill—with its smokestacks and countless bales of discarded paper—brings to mind the dreariness of industrialization and the impermanence of life itself. But the factory is actually one where such litter is reborn as reusable paper.
Willis and Young's quadtone photographs transform this mill and the innumerable mounds of recyclable waste it processes daily into an indelible and evocative landscape. Recycled Realities is not a jeremiad foretelling the consequences of excessive waste, rampant pollution, or unbridled consumption but rather a profound meditation on the hidden connections and meanings that linger beneath the debris and detritus of everyday life.
These unforgettable images of discarded paper from the printed world trace the processes of emergence, revelation, and redemption that make the cycle of life possible. In their artwork, Willis and Young take that which we have discarded and create new forms of being in and of themselves: vibrant and ultimately life-affirming portraits of who we are as people and the realities that we constantly build—and rebuild—all around us.