The term “trigger trash” is used by the Federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to describe any item left on public land as the result of target shooting. I began collecting these objects while working on a gun-centric photographic project titled Nobody Wanted, as I was both intrigued by their visual and descriptive qualities and repelled by their presence within the landscape.
In Eastern Idaho, recreational shooting is permissible on public land, but it is illegal to leave behind any targets, shrapnel, or debris. Twenty minutes west of where I currently reside, 4.5 million acres of sagebrush-covered desert are overseen by a small BLM field office. Since there are only a few individuals responsible for such a large expanse of land, litter-covered shooting sites are frightfully common. I question if this disregard for the environment is rooted in ignorance, a misperception of one’s rights to public land use, or a rebellious attitude toward the federal government and its responsibility for managing these places.
Regardless of motive, this behavior casts a poor light on those who use these areas for target shooting. Local community members regularly organize cleanup activities to keep excessive amounts of trash at bay, but it inevitably returns over time.
My own purpose in collecting and photographing trigger trash is twofold. First, it is a personal cleanup effort. By removing some of these items that I photograph, I am helping to preserve the integrity of public land. Second, it is a documentation of post-consumer products-turned-targets. These artifacts act as a manuscript of human activity, and they generate discussion on social, political, and environmental themes relating to gun culture and its impact on the landscape.
If you’re interested in other work on this and similar topics, we’d recommend these articles: Nobody Wanted, George’s related project on the vast sagebrush deserts in the American West that have turned into shooting ranges; Shot, contemporary tintypes that comment on America’s gun culture; and Gun Nation USA, a portrait of a nation that has a population of 300+ million people—and a circulation of 300+ million guns.