GLASS BEACH


Although the Hawaiian Island of Kauai boasts some of the most dramatic scenery to be found on earth, it's a far different location on the remote island that repeatedly draws me back.

To locals, the stretch of coastline I'm referring to is known as Glass Beach. It's a favorite spot for collecting sea glass and it would be hard to image a more concentrated level of broken bottles anywhere. It's also home to an overgrown cemetery filled with beautiful headstones and a unique dumping ground that has fascinated me for over ten years.

I never understood the logic behind putting a junkyard next to the ocean although I've come to think of it as an alternate way of recycling man made objects back to nature. Slow, but effective!

I visited Glass Beach many times before I thought about shooting there, partially because I didn't know what to do with it, and secondly because it was so overwhelming.

Over the course of many visits I slowly decided that the real attraction, at least for me, was the assortment of objects rusting away in the sand and tidal pools. In addition to whole engines, transmissions and suspensions fused to the reef, there is an assortment of automobile components all in various stages of decay.

Although I wanted to show the environment as it appears on a grand scale, I also wanted to isolate individual objects and treat them as fascinating shapes on their own.

I began by visiting every day, lowering my equipment, which included a studio tripod and counter weights as well as a rigid white background, down the steep cliff to access the tidal pools. In retrospect, considering the amount of rusted metal and glass I climbed over every day, it's amazing I never ended up needing a trip to the hospital.

Each time I visited, I would also include empty buckets to collect the more outstanding artifacts to bring back to my studio, where I could study them in greater detail.

Although I have a good understanding of the components of an automobile, occasionally I would find an object I just couldn't identify. Usually I was able to overcome this problem by emailing a picture to an assortment of friends who sooner or later would be able to guess what it was they were looking at.

To me, Glass Beach is an ongoing project. Each time I return, it seems the ocean has revealed some new shape for me to discover. Incredibly, a truck engine and transmission, easily weighing half a ton, can be relocated overnight by the oceans's unlimited energy.

On the other hand, I can go months between visits and find a spark plug in the exact same location it was on the previous outing.

I tend not to think of Glass Beach as some environmental nightmare but rather a more profound demonstration of recycling in it's simplest form.

No matter what man creates, he's still creating it out of materials the earth provides. Here, those materials are returned back to the land in a never-ending cycle, aided by all the elements working together.

George Diebold