Photography, waste material, environment and fine art

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By Asmita Sarkar

Photography, waste, environment and fine art: what do they have in common with conservation?
Ours is a culture of consumption: we do not have time to appreciate beauty in nature or in art. The price tag attached to branded products and the glossy adverts in magazines and TV are often all we use to evaluate everything.

Contemporary artists have taken an clever stand against this general attitude and are making a statement by utilizing by-products, left-overs and waste coming from of our consumeristic culture. Some of the things used are for example soft-drinks plastic bottles.

Some artists create site specific installations or sculptures, therefore documentation is very important, so photographing these sculptures becomes a form of environmental art.

Photography as a medium, thanks to its immediacy, is particularly apt to document social issues and the environmental cause and thanks to its growing popularity it is becoming an important tool to expand an environmentally conscious public.

In the UK for example there are some major photography competitions focusing on the environment which attract well-known artists and scientists: one of these is the Environmental Photographer of the Year Awards which is organised by UK’s Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM).

FOCUS: Rock garden: a huge artwork made from industrial waste

According to judge and CIWEM executive director Nick Reeves, the photos submitted in this competition are as poignant as any other form of art and they will compel anyone to think about the environmental condition that we live in. Thus photography can serve as a protest art.

Chris Jordan is a renowned environmental artist: his work includes installations and photography. His themes are always related to excessive consumerism, pollution and environment. Jordan has an interesting career path. Before becoming a full-time photographer, he was a corporate lawyer.

He takes photographs depicting garbage and compel the viewer to think about the effects of mass consumption. These images, though of ugly materials, are hauntingly beautiful. And their effect is sublime. He has proven that one can deliver a powerful message without resorting to violent images.

One of his most popular pictures is Plastic Bottles. It shows two million plastic beverage bottles. This is the number of bottles used in the US every five minutes. In his works, accumulation of several separate acts results in a dystopic vision of our current state.

Another piece worth mentioning is Car Keys: what looks like a pile of  scrapped cars is in reality created with 260,000 car keys: the same amount of gallons of gasoline burned in motor vehicles in the US every minute. He has also created a reproduction of one of Seurat’s masterpieces using thousands of plastic bottles caps.

Chris Jordan‘s brilliant work can be admired worldwide: we think it inspires everybody to make wiser choices and consume less.

He has also made a reproduction of impressionist master Seurat’s painting with thousands of caps of plastic bottles. You can have a look at more his works in a gallery in your country, since he exhibits internationally.

Finally we ask; does his work inspire you to consume less and less?

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