Artist and photographer Chris Jordan examines the bad habits of human consumption with work that depicts trash in all its incarnations.
From a distance, his collections of bottle caps, bullets, or Barbie parts are pleasantly abstract, though carefully orchestrated in their large-scale, long-zoom formats. As a body of work, Jordan’s photographs and multimedia pieces — combining documentary with staged production — reveal stunning data about the accumulation of stuff, wrapping social commentary in an attractive packaging.
In this Ted Talks episode from 2008, Jordan illustrates a shocking picture of America’s relationship with garbage, including the fact that we use four-million plastic cups a day on airline flights alone.
From the series Midway: Message from the Gyre
“These photographs of albatross chicks were made on Midway Atoll, a tiny stretch of sand and coral near the middle of the North Pacific. The nesting babies are fed bellies-full of plastic by their parents, who soar out over the vast polluted ocean collecting what looks to them like food to bring back to their young. On this diet of human trash, every year tens of thousands of albatross chicks die on Midway from starvation, toxicity, and choking.” Courtesy of Chris Jordan.
Running the Numbers, 2005-2009
In Running the Numbers, Jordan collects pieces of trash that signify a whole statistic. In this example, the 166,000 packing peanuts he photographed are equal to the number of overnight packages shipped by air in the US every hour. The image below shows 32,000 Barbies, equal to the number of elective breast-augmentation surgeries performed monthly in the US in 2006.
E. Pluribus Unum, 2009
This mandala depicts the names of one-million organizations around the world that are “devoted to peace, environmental stewardship, social justice, and the preservation of diverse and indigenous culture.” Jordan envisions a large-scale installation comprising 2,000 laser-etched metal tiles with a diameter between 50 and 100 feet.
Intolerable Beauty: Portraits of American Mass Consumption
“The immense scale of our consumption can appear desolate, macabre, oddly comical and ironic, and even darkly beautiful; for me its consistent feature is a staggering complexity.”