Chris Jordan, environmental photographer, exposes shocking amounts of American mass consumption with his evocative, meaningful and brilliant large-format, long-zoom artwork. He illustrates the accumulated detritus of modern U.S. culture by meticulously arranging thousands of photographs into recognizable designs from afar and a jarring reality up close.
The internationally exhibited artist’s industrious passion for conservation and awareness has brought much attention to his photography. His TED talk “Turning powerful stats into art” has had more than 1,167,552 views.
Jordan says that by “employing themes such as the near versus the far, and the one versus the many” he hopes “to raise some questions about the roles and responsibilities we each play as individuals in a collective that is increasingly enormous, incomprehensible, and overwhelming.”
As an environmentalist and activist—and he states that every artist he knows is an activist on one level or another—he hopes that we do not fall down into a pit of hopelessness and helplessness. More than half of our world continues to flourish and every moment is an incomprehensible gift. He feels that a radical change is needed in our world and an artist can bring a very personal and emotional component to this effort. He reminds us of the importance of eco-art.
Jordan’s images document unimaginable statistics such as viewed in his photo “Roundup” (2015) which illustrates 213,000 bees equaling the number of pounds of toxic chemical pesticides applied to plants and soils around the world every 20 minutes. He states that “over 1 billion pounds of pesticides are introduced into the environment in the U.S. each year, and approximately 5.6 billion pounds are used worldwide.”
His latest project, a video entitled “Midway”, hauntingly, and very emotionally, tells the story of birds, such as the magnificent albatross, who are dying on Midway Island because of the ingestion of plastic. As he says, “Midway” is the point in the world midway between the horror and bad news of human-caused pollution and the beauty and miracle of our world.
In his photograph entitled “Cigarette Butts” (2013) he depicts 139,000 cigarette butts that are equal to the number of cigarettes smoked and discarded every 15 seconds in the U.S. According to Jordan cigarette butts are the number one littered item found in America’s public spaces including parks, beaches, waterways, and urban environments. This form of litter has far-reaching impacts on the environment: littered butts leach numerous toxic chemicals and carcinogens, contaminate water sources, and poison wildlife. The filters are made of cellulose acetate, a type of plastic that does not biodegrade.”
In his work “Caps Seurat” (2011) he combines 400,000 plastic bottle caps which equivalent to the average number of plastic bottles consumed in the United States every minute!
“…what I’m trying to do with my work, is to take these numbers, these statistics from the raw language of data, and to translate them into a more universal visual language, that can be felt.”
Jordan has had numerous solo exhibits around the world, including those at Sophie Gannon Gallery, Melbourne, Australia, Bryan Oliver Gallery, Whitworth University, Spokane, WA; International Museum of Art and Science, McAllen, TX; and Science Museum of Virginia, Richmond, VA.
He is currently exhibiting in “Cause & Effect”, at VERVE Gallery in Santa Fe, NM, through September 5, 2015. The exhibition addresses the issues surrounding man-made climate change.
His work is in numerous collections including: The Getty Museum; Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA); Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and Santa Barbara Museum of Art; among many others.
Chris Jordan emphasizes that “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.”
An excerpt from Chris Jordan’s TED talk “…And so that’s what I’m trying to do with my work, is to take these numbers, these statistics from the raw language of data, and to translate them into a more universal visual language, that can be felt. Because my belief is, if we can feel these issues, if we can feel these things more deeply, then they’ll matter to us more than they do now. And if we can find that, then we’ll be able to find, within each one of us, what it is that we need to find to face the big question, which is: how do we change? ”
Watch Midway, a short film by Chris Jordan “a powerful visual journey into the heart of an astonishingly symbolic environmental tragedy.”