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Photographer Cristobal Valecillos Turns Everyday Trash into Beauty

The paper dress captured the vibrant and consumerist zeitgeist of 1960s America so precisely that the fashion press speculated about paper garments taking over the market. But as the novelty appeal of paper clothes wore off, their downsides became more apparent and they very soon ended up as waste. Los Angeles based Venezuelan photographer Cristobal Valecillos' series "A Cardboard Life" elevates paper back to a high fashion level, but his work's allure comes with an urgent message. All of his images are made out of recyclable materials from the clothes on his models to their environments, styled after the splendor of Pre-Raphaelite painting and making us look at trash with new eyes.

The paper dress captured the vibrant and consumerist zeitgeist of 1960s America so precisely that the fashion press speculated about paper garments taking over the market. But as the novelty appeal of paper clothes wore off, their downsides became more apparent and they very soon ended up as waste. Los Angeles based Venezuelan photographer Cristobal Valecillos’ series “A Cardboard Life” elevates paper back to a high fashion level, but his work’s allure comes with an urgent message. 

All of his images are made out of recyclable materials from the clothes on his models to their environments, styled after the splendor of Pre-Raphaelite painting and making us look at trash with new eyes. One image dresses a model in an outfit made of recycled Starbucks cups that Valecillos sourced from a garbage dump, while other images utilize discarded pizza and cereal boxes. Although these works embrace the beauty of the paper material, they also raise the artist’s concern about the amount of waste that we generate, and how big corporations are improperly producing and managing their trash.

His art also makes a point that with the right amount of imagination, artists don’t need to be wasteful to create something beautiful: “My art form involves an innovative concept of using raw cardboard and paper, born out of a desire to create art without generating waste. This led to my inspiration to use everyday materials that are around us and craft something beautiful with them,” he says. “My goal is to show people that fashion is not only about consuming and wasting; we can bring forth inspired art into the world by recycling. Rather than creating waste, I am converting it into beauty, and I am reminded that we can express ourselves in extraordinary ways by using the most basic elements.”

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