Smokey Mountain

Tune in:

by Nick Onken

One of the biggest things I love about travel photography in 3rd world countries is that you see things that hopefully have an impact on the way you see the world. I know it does for me. To see people in dire circumstances who have little to nothing, yet are happy and content with their lives is eye opening and life changing.

In December, I had a chance to go to a place called Smokey Mountain with my friend in Manilla. I saw things I’ve never seen before. Smokey Mountain is a landfill where squatters live. They live on the landfill, so they can pull all the recyclables out of the trash to make money. Usually the happiest are the kids. They get creative with their toys. They make the best out of the situation they have. The squatters set up almost a small town within the landfill. They even have little stores, one of which is called “brush off food” where they sell food items they’ve found in the trash and “brush off” the dirt. Definitely gives you an idea of the circumstances.

Another big realization is the waste of plastic bags. It made me really think of how many plastic bags we waste in the US, and how much they can actually recycle. The photo below is a grand illustration of the waste. I’ve made a better effort to not use plastic bags as much as I can, and use reusable grocery tote bags, etc. It’s something I think we should all make an effort to do. Seeing all of this really made me realize how wasteful we are, especially in a city like New York.

All in all, even photos don’t describe the experience of actually being there. The five senses really bring it to reality. The smell of the rotting trash decomposing in front of you, the sounds of the kids running around, the sight of trash for days, and the crunch of trash with each step.

You may also be interested in...

Posted by Nick Onken | July 23, 2015
MC Barao
A little New York City workout with athletic-fashion-blogger, MC Barao in the Lower East Side.
Posted by Nick Onken | July 23, 2015
Serinda Swan
It was great catching up with the beautiful, Serinda Swan at her home in LA and hanging out with her homeboy, Buddha (who gives some great doggy-fist bumps)
Posted by Nick Onken | July 23, 2015
Makins Hats
The Makins Hat Factory has a 40 year old history, and has produced hats for many celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, Brad Pitt, and snoop dog to name a few. I had a lot of fun shooting this lookbook for the brand with Satya Twena.

Access the secrets to master your creativity, business and life.