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We’d thought that the trash of Hell’s Kitchen had only become a local obsession during the pandemic, and we featured “Hell’s Kitchen Trash Queen” Catie Savage back in July. Now, we’ve taken delivery of a book full of pictures of the area’s garbage. Scroll and enjoy the photography (and captions) of Richard Panchyk.
Man in Can. Tenth Avenue and 43rd Street. Trash digging happens a lot, but it’s hard to capture someone in the act. Just what are these folks seeking? Could be a newspaper, but more likely cans they can turn in for the five-cent deposit.
Pizza. Ninth Avenue between 39th and 40th Streets. I think fallen New York pizza probably evokes the most sadness in me, of all dropped garbage items. And face-down, no less!
Spoon. Eleventh Avenue between 43rd and 44th Streets. “Roadkill trash” is most often soda cans, but can be other unlucky items, such as this flattened metal spoon next to a Burger King bag.
Big Gulp. 35th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues. I really feel like people think they are being better than litterers by sticking their trash any place other than the ground.
Flat Can. Tenth Avenue and 39th Street. Some enterprising artist could easily collect a bunch of flattened cans and make something from it. I knew an artist named Mr. Imagination who used bottle caps to make sculptures, so why not?
Pyrex and Plastic. 36th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues. A glass measuring cup and a two-handled plastic Shut Up and Dance cup. Random, yet it somehow makes sense.
Sneaker and Bottle. 40th Street and Ninth Avenue. The brain wants to make a connection between the bottle and the sneaker (a story involving a drunken night and a painful blister), but maybe they are completely unrelated. If I had to name this image, I’d call it “Shattered Dreams.”
Locker. 39th Street between Ninth and Tenth Avenue. Residential trash is often poignant and personal. This children’s locker is adorned with colorful letter stickers.
Door. 44th Street between Ninth and Tenth Avenues. Sometimes, there is No Exit. Especially when the door has been ripped off its hinges during a construction project.
Recliner. Ninth Avenue and 47th Street. It looks like it was beamed directly from someone’s living room on the sidewalk. A little Febreze and it should be good(ish) to go!
Playing Card. Hudson Yards. Clear evidence that someone in Hell’s Kitchen is not playing with a full deck. Yeah, I went there.
Keys. 43rd Street between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues. It’s often the smallest trash that is the most intriguing. These keys have a story. Maybe they were dropped and lost. Maybe they were intentionally tossed. Maybe they open lockers in Grand Central where $10,000 in cash is stashed.
Note Card. 46th Street between Ninth and Tenth Avenues. “Dear Benjamin, Thank you for mentoring Bijou. We appreciate it deeply. Best, Desiree + Bijou.” Just a guess, but perhaps Benjamin did not appreciate the thank you as deeply as they appreciated him.
Guitar Case. 39th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues. Every single piece of trash has a story to tell, but some stories are more mysterious and compelling than others. An abandoned guitar case leaves much to the imagination. Perhaps a street performer was ousted from her spot in a hurry and left the case behind?
“Hell’s Kitchen Trash” takes a detailed look at the garbage of this colorful, historic West Side neighborhood — from tiny to massive, appealing to disgusting, and seemingly ordinary to eerily bizarre. The photos in this book are snapshots of Hell’s Kitchen life as seen through its refuse. Author Richard Panchyk presents a photographic history of the discards of the area’s residents, commuters, and tourists, all of whom coexist and contribute to the diverse landscape of urban refuse, the many tons of trash generated every single day. From forlorn gloves to rejected recliners, and dumped dressers to fallen pizza, Hell’s Kitchen Trash presents a gritty look at the wide variety of objects we leave behind, whether intentionally or by accident.
Reprinted from Hell’s Kitchen Trash by Richard Panchyk (Fonthill Press 2020).