I caught the segment above on an Australian current affairs program called Hungry Beast about a month ago, and it’s stuck with me since. It features the work of photographer Chris Jordan, photographs he took at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The patch, a swirling mass of debris in the Pacific, is the size of Queensland (but to internationalise things it has also been said to be double the size of Texas). The pictures are the undisturbed remains of baby albatrosses, their stomachs bursting with bright plastic junk from the patch. Everyday we’re confronted with stories and facts about our impacts on the environment, and what I found so striking about this is there’s no message being rammed down our throats – the images do the talking.
I first saw Jordan’s work in an excellent talk on TED in which he presents a sample of his work called ‘Picturing Excess’. It’s another example of how he uses images to shock viewers with issues that they know about, but the scale of which is difficult to comprehend. In the course of the talk he states that 384 000 women in the US had breast augmentation surgery in one year, a figure he depicts using a piece constructed from 32 000 barbie dolls, representing a month’s worth of augmentation surgeries in the States.
[ A sample ] [The complete image]
Other images depict waste, imprisoned populations and addiction. They, like Jordan’s albatross pictures, are an extremely effective way of presenting realities and statistics in a digestible, if shocking, way.