Running the numbers on waste
The photographer Chris Jordan is the Breughel of waste, bringing us face to face with parts of our civilisation we’d prefer to look away from. I blogged about his work a couple of years ago – which he builds up, digitally, image by image, to try to represent visually the sheer weight of rubbish from our consumer culture. More than 400,000 mobile phones are ‘retired’ in the US every day. 2.4 million pieces of plastic enter the ocean every day. (‘Everything’s gonna be plastic‘ sang Woody Guthrie, 60 years ago). Each picture attempts to be a digital representation of a particular element of consumerism. Since I wrote the earlier post, the waste has got worse, and he’s published a book, Running The Numbers.
SEED magazine has a good slideshow of his work,with some intriguing close-ups. It sums it up this way:
Photographer Chris Jordan attempts to convey the vastness of modern consumption by breaking down annual statistics into more graspable quantities depicted by clever visualizations made of individual objects or groups of objects that he photographs. The 106,000 aluminum cans consumed in the US every 30 seconds, for instance, become the individual dots of Seurat’s Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. “There’s a disconnect that happens when we assume we know what we’re talking about when we talk about hundreds of millions of plastic bottles,” Jordan says. “I’m trying to translate these numbers from the deadening language of statistics into a visual language that allows some kind of comprehension.”