Fixing: The New Recycling

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. We’ve all heard that mantra as the key to becoming a more environmentally conscious society. But when it comes to difficult to recycle items like broken lamps, those usually get thrown in the garbage. Some Philly locals are tackling this problem by fixing people’s belongings so they don’t have to throw them away.

The Philly Fixers Guild sets up Repair Fairs every few months where the community can bring their broken stuff to “fixers,” who will repair their items. The best part: it’s free. After hearing about this intriguing organization, I knew they would be a great fit for my video series project on Philadelphia sustainability.

I made a few phone calls, and then a week later, with my camera bag and tripod in tow, I hopped on a train to Northeast Philly to interview guild founders Ben Davis and Holly Logan at their latest event. While at the Repair Fair, I visited the various tables of fixers, each with different expertise. Fixers were de-shelling old Playstations, dissembling record players, salvaging data from laptops, and saving vintage sewing machines.


I held my camera steady to capture a fixer reconstructing the wiring of a round vintage lamp. She twisted and clipped the wires with pliers. I focused my camera on her hands as they worked to reattach the plug. When it came time to finally test if it would turn on, the lamp’s owner and I followed her to an outlet where a small circle formed to watch. She plugged it in and flipped the switch. The lamp glowed an intimate honey orange. The crowd clapped—another item fixed. It was a lightbulb moment.

The next hour, I recorded more a-ha moments as fixers and owners alike worked anxiously to repair their broken items. Everybody was happy to let me shoot video of their mini struggles and triumphs. At the end of the event, I completed my location shoot with an interview with the founders.

Looking back at the interview and the shots that I took, I felt that everything went smoothly. Sure, there were moments when the microphone died and I had to replace the battery. Even when things happened unexpectedly, I handled them with ease. Before the shoot I expected to feel anxious, as I usually do before doing an interview. I was anxious, but the excited kind where I was energized and couldn’t wait to get started.

When I entered the event space that Saturday afternoon and followed the fixers through their diagnostic processes, there were moments when I felt completely focused. I was in the zone. This event was a light bulb moment for me too, because it gave me confidence in my skills to successfully complete my senior project.