16th & Q Streets NW (Southeast corner). Oct. 2, 2016, 8:59 a.m.
16th & Q Streets NW (Southeast corner). Oct. 2, 2016, 8:59 a.m. Credit: Chester Hawkins/Intangible Arts

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Nearly a year ago, Chester Hawkins took a picture of the inside of a trash can and posted it to Instagram. Since then, he’s taken 105 pictures of public trash cans on the streets of D.C., each photo nearly identical in framing: shot from above the mouth and exposing the garbage on top. It might seem like a silly endeavor, but Hawkins’ Instagram (@intangiblearts, named after the record label he runs) has become one of the more fascinating and obscure documentations of the city over the past year.

The idea behind all this “is a bit of urban archaeology with equal parts cynicism and surreal fun,” Hawkins says, “assuming that I’d see a difference in trash between tourist areas versus neighborhoods, and between affluent and less-affluent neighborhoods, and season-specific differences, etc.” Over the course of his documentation, “the patterns were predictable but interesting: Affluent neighborhoods had more intact food being discarded (note dozen eggs in one shot), garden trimmings, etc.” 

It might seem ludicrous, Hawkins says, but that’s kind of the point of it all—“to see if a random stupid idea, done consistently and with discipline over time, reaches a point where it stops being random and stupid and becomes legitimate documentation.” Decide for yourself.

16th & Q Streets NW (Southeast corner). Oct. 2, 2016, 8:59 a.m.Chester Hawkins/Intangible Arts

16th & Church Street NW. May, 8, 2016, 9:54 a.m.Chester Hawkins/Intangible Arts

1200 block of H Street NW. May 9, 2016, 3 p.m.Chester Hawkins/Intangible Arts

8th & H Streets NW (Northwest corner). May 12, 2016, 3:35 p.m.Chester Hawkins/Intangible Arts

1400 block 14th Street NW (East side). May 25, 2016, 9:01 a.m.Chester Hawkins/Intangible Arts

1400 block, Church Street NW (South curb). June 5, 2016, 6:51 a.m.Chester Hawkins/Intangible Arts

1500 block of 7th Street NW (West side). June 9, 2016, 7:32 p.m.Chester Hawkins/Intangible Arts

Wisconsin Avenue and Albemarle Street NW (Northwest corner). July 23, 2016, 1:58 p.m.Chester Hawkins/Intangible Arts

North Capitol and F Streets NW (Southwest corner). Aug. 13, 2016, 2:53 p.m.Chester Hawkins/Intangible Arts

17th Street & Rhode Island Avenue NW (Southwest corner). Aug. 24, 2016, 6:41 p.m.Chester Hawkins/Intangible Arts

15th & U Streets NW (Southwest corner). Dec. 19, 2016, 3:31 p.m.Chester Hawkins/Intangible Arts

SPECIAL POST-GARBAGE FIRE EDITION: 14th Street and Rhode Island Avenue NW (Northwest corner), Dec. 23, 2016, 8:50 a.m.Chester Hawkins/Intangible Arts

18th and Swann Streets NW (Northwest corner), Dec. 28, 2016, 4:33 p.m.Chester Hawkins/Intangible Arts