Belgian photographer Paul Bulteel captures the beauty of recycled materials in his photo book Cycle & Recycle, which was published by Hatje Cantz in January 2016. For approximately 18 months, Bulteel traveled across five different countries to photograph a series of interesting and eye-catching masterpieces made from waste and recycled materials.
Through colorful photos and inspirational text, Bulteel gives readers a unique look at the waste and recycling industry. Waste360 recently spoke with Bulteel about Cycle & Recycle and his inspiration behind the book.
Waste360: What was your inspiration for creating Cycle & Recycle?
Paul Bulteel: My photography often deals with the relationship between man and the urban environment. For this photography series, I traveled a lot and I wandered around to find subjects that interested me. While strolling around, I found some yards where waste was being processed, and I took some pictures. I was surprised by the strange aesthetics of that subject, its social relevance and the quantity and diversity of waste products that we throw away. It’s ultimately one of the major environmental problems.
I found the subject interesting, and I did some more research. I found that very little photography has been done on recycling. There are several photographers who have been covering waste issues, but it’s almost always from a negative point of view showing damage or inhuman conditions in developing countries, for example.
From an angle of recycling, I wanted to create something with a more positive viewpoint. I started contacting companies and the ball eventually started rolling. In the end, I photographed more than 50 industrial sites dealing with waste collecting, handling and recycling.
I photographed in Western Europe, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, France and Luxemburg. The Western European countries are real leaders when it comes to recycling, and it’s a part of the world where you will find the highest recycling rates.
Waste360: What types of materials are included in the photos?
Paul Bulteel: For this series, I tried to cover quite a range of materials, including glass, clothing, appliances, cardboard, paper, organic materials, aluminum, copper, metals, cars, plastic, building materials, tires, batteries, furniture, latex, gypsum, you name it.
Waste360: Tell me a little bit about your background. Have you always been a photographer?
Paul Bulteel: I am actually not a professional photographer, and my career has been completely different. I was an engineer and a senior manager in the energy industry for years. I have always had an interest in art and photography. I am now retired, which has given me more time to do photography. In general, I have been doing photography for more than 50 years. I am now 67 years old, and I started photography when I was a teenager. I remember my first equipment was a reflex camera. It was quite an iconic camera from Russia, and I bought it because it was very cheap and had good functionality.
Photography and captions courtesy Paul Bulteel