November 1, 2011
by Claire O'Neill
Remember those haunting images of animals stuck in plastic soda rings? This is worse. Since 2009, photographer Chris Jordan has been documenting birds on Midway Atoll way out in the Pacific Ocean — near what's known as the "Pacific Garbage Patch" or, essentially, a swirling heap of plastic the size of Texas.
What Jordan found on those islands were carcasses of baby birds that have died an unnerving death: According to the BBC, "about one-third of all albatross chicks die on Midway, many as the result of being mistakenly fed plastic by their parents."
Jordan was a runner-up this year for the Prix Pictet, a prize in photography and sustainability, for a morose series that shows plastic guts spilling from dead birds. His photos, and others from the Prix Pictet contest, are currently touring various museums. He is also producing a film about his journeys to Midway Atoll, where the photos were taken.
"For me," Jordan writes in an artist statement, "kneeling over their carcasses is like looking into a macabre mirror. These birds reflect back an appallingly emblematic result of the collective trance of our consumerism and runaway industrial growth."
They are hard to look at, but it's even harder to confront that this is not fiction.