There was smoke in the garbage dump. This part of the city emits smoke round the clock. This is Yerevan 's second largest garbage dump, after Nubarashen. It's located in the Achapniak district, in the vicinity of the Fourth Village . This is a place where what we all throw out is transported by garbage trucks. There is something from each of us here. Some part of our life, our memory, has been transported here and is rotting or burning.
There was a group of people poking around in the garbage. We walked up to them - they were teen-aged boys and a woman. Faces and hands blackened, they were waiting for a newly arrived truck to unload. The worn-out truck was squealing, unable to lift the body, and the boys began to lift it themselves. With their help, the truck dumped its load. The boys fell on the garbage at once. They grabbed half-empty bags of bottles, old shoes, plastic things, leftover food.
"You see, dear boy, I don't want my neighbors and relatives to know that I get my daily bread here. My son is grown-up now, it's shameful. I used to have a job, I worked at a factory. And now if I don't come here, we'll starve, what can I do?" said fifty-year-old S.T. She was startled when photographer Onnik Krikorian began taking pictures at some distance from us. "Oh, don't take my picture," she kept saying. I tried to tell her that we wouldn't take her picture, but she didn't believe us, and she left.
Artak and his two brothers come here from Oshakan every day. I asked why they came here, wasn't there any work in their village. "We don't have land or livestock, what can we do? And if there happens to be any work, they pay 500 drams (less than a dollar) a day, but here we make 1,000 drams a day. We mainly collect bottles," Artak said.
The most sociable among the boys was 14-year-old Manuk from the Fourth Village. He let us take his picture and was excited to see it on the camera screen.
18-year-old Shiraz was here from the village of Sasunik with his 16-year-old brother Shahen. "We collect everything-bottles, cellophane, shoes. Then we give it all to various people; there are people here who salvage the waste. We get 1,000 drams each. If we don't come here, we won't be able to help our family." One of Shiraz 's eyes is damaged and he hopes that one day he will collect enough money for an operation to replace it with a prosthetic eye.
"You are not going to spend all your life collecting garbage, are you? Do you consider doing something else?" I asked M. from Yerevan . "When I collect some money, I will start my own business. I am not going to stay in this garbage forever. We keep pigs. I take leftover food for them, so, in fact, we save on slops. We have four pigs," M. says. Most of the boys here have an eighth-grade education.
Crows, the permanent residents of the dump, have gotten used to people. Sometimes they don't even move when people or dogs approach them. They all know each other - the people, the dogs, and the crows. The crows provide the music.
Photographs by Onnik Krikorian