Didier Ruef


29 May 2011

The Swiss photographer Didier Ruef has a new book: “Recycle” published last month under Labor & Fides in France & last week under Casagrande in Spain / Italy (one of those expensive: 43€ but amazing Taschen-like photography editions) and documenting the dangers and issues of world recycling and rubbish.

Philippines. Manila © Didier Ruef

After touring 17 countries around the world attempting to document the treatment of waste Didier is pretty convinced that trash is one of the best human metaphors. “Through the waste, you can discover how people live and even how they die” said the Swiss photographer, for whom his work is “a drug addiction.”

book cover with photo from India. Province of Gujarat © Didier Ruef

Mr Ruef (Geneva 1961) after graduating in Economics at the University of Geneva he took up photojournalism at the International Center of Photography (ICP) in New York. His photo-reportages are inscribed in time and focus on showing human beings, their environment as well as the ecological problems created by man. In the case of “Recycle” he carefully analyzes the consumer society of the past 20 years through 236 snapshots. “When you travel, you realize that there really is a problem with the garbage,” says the photographer, who has visited 70 countries during his career. “We are putting ourselves at risk because we buy, use and throw away without thinking of the consequences. Nobody cares about the side effects of all these inventions produced en masse,” he adds.

Italy. Veneto Region © Didier Ruef

Ruef has quite a long career as a photojournalist and his works have been published in the most renown magazines and newspapers (Time, The Observer Magazine, Daily Telegraph, Le Monde, El Pais Semanal, D La Republica, Der Spiegel…), and since 1991 he’s been working on this “Man & Waste” project which saw the light last month.

Wealthy countries exported to the poor everything they cannot recycle, sending them the environmental problem. In contrast, an economic value is given to trash in these poor countries because people collect anything and then sell it. “It’s their way of surviving,” he says. In Manila, for example, children work since very young in collecting waste but is a way to keep them away from prostitution.

Azerbaijan. Baku © Didier Ruef

A human recycling puzzle that has taken him to Ukraine and Belarus (while covering the Chernobyl nuclear disaster), to Iraq trying to show with harsh images the absurdity of war, India (and the big boats cemetery).. etc.

Something we accept & assume, but ignore at the end of the day despite knowing this will carry on for many decades to come.

More images & info on Didier’s webpage.

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