How does he make intolerable, overwhelming amounts of waste so beautiful? With his photographic art, Chris Jordan sends a strong message about American mass consumption, that we are living unsustainably and until people are held accountable for our actions it will get worse. He visits shipping ports and industrial yards – evidence of our consumption usually hidden from view – then puts together large-scale portraits focusing on the tiniest details. The immensity of the canvas reminds the viewer that our waste may seem insignificant in our hands, but it becomes a bigger problem than we can even imagine. We need full-fledged cooperation in order to change the way we consume and reduce waste.
He offers the following advice: ‘As an American consumer myself, I am in no position to finger wag; but I do know that when we reflect on a difficult question in the absence of an answer, our attention can turn inward, and in that space may exist the possibility of some evolution of thought or action. So my hope is that these photographs can serve as portals to a kind of cultural self-inquiry. It may not be the most comfortable terrain, but I have heard it said that in risking self-awareness, at least we know that we are awake.’ Chris Jordan
Packing Peanuts, 2009, 60×80″, Depicts 166,000 packing peanuts, equal to the number of overnight packages shipped by air in the U.S. every hour.
Gyre, 2009, 8×11 feet in three vertical panels. Depicts 2.4 million pieces of plastic, equal to the estimated number of pounds of plastic pollution that enter the world’s oceans every hour. All of the plastic in this image was collected from the Pacific Ocean.
Plastic Bottles, 2007, 60×120″. Depicts two million plastic beverage bottles, the number used in the US every five minutes.
Cell Phone Chargers, Atlanta 2004
Container Yard #1, Seattle 2003. (Side note: Companies keep piling these shipping containers on top of each other because it’s cheaper than shipping them back the other way. Just take a little journey to the mall or IKEA in Elizabeth, NJ to see evidence!)