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Vik Muniz

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The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20, begins today in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. An outgrowth of the Earth Summit held in Rio in 1992, the conference is designed to bring together 50,000 delegates from state governments, institutions, and non-governmental organizations to create measures to reduce poverty while promoting clean energy, decent jobs, and sustainable use of resources. The conference has attracted many protests and parallel events, as diverse groups struggle to share the world stage and make their voices heard. Collected here are just a few of the scenes from Rio+20. [37 photos]

An indigenous child from Kayapo tribe attends first indigenous assembly for the Rio+20 Conference at Kari-Oca village in Rio de Janeiro, on June 14, 2012. Indigenous people from around the world are visiting the village for the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. (Reuters/Ricardo Moraes)

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This week I had the pleasure of seeing the Academy Award nominated documentary "Wasteland" and meeting its director Lucy Walker. The film follows the Brazilian photographer Vik Muniz as he sets out to create a body of work rendering portraits of the garbage pickers of Rio's Jardim Gramacho - the largest landfill in the world - out of the garbage they sift through every day. The idea was that all the money Muniz made from the sale of these pictures would be given back to the pickers and their union. However it also turned out to be a shining example of how doing the right thing can bring as much to the giver as the receiver.

For those not familiar with Muniz's work, it is largely comprised of renditions of iconic images done in unusual material like chocolate syrup or paint swatches and then photographed by the artist. You can see a lot on Muniz's own site here.

Following the unusual, dangerous, and daunting project, Walker focuses on a handful of Muniz's truly memorable subjects and by the time the film is over you not only feel you've gotten to know them, but you care deeply about them. Subtextually, the film also addresses the often complicated issue of what makes something a work of art in a refreshingly clear-headed way. It's moving, entertaining, and illuminating. It's playing here and there, but obviously if the film gets an Oscar it will be easier to access.

Whatever happens, don't miss it.

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