Just a few years ago, photographer Chris Jordan was corporate lawyer Chris Jordan, working long hours in Seattle and snapping pictures on the weekend. But as he approached his fortieth birthday, he began to wonder if in forty more years he'd look back with regret at having relegated his passion to the realm of hobby and never tried to make it as a professional artist. So he resigned.
It didn't take long before Jordan's jarring, perspective-changing images of consumer waste and electronic detritus made it to the pages of the New York Times. The series they featured, "Intolerable Beauty," shows mountains of cells phones, shipping containers and palettes, crushed cars at the junkyard, cut timber, filling the frame with a blur of overconsumption. Later, Jordan produced an arresting series entitled "In Katrina's Wake" (no explanation needed for the subject of that collection).
And now, he's released his newest series, "Running the Numbers," which uses imagery to illustrate some incomprehensible statistics. His statement describes the work like this:
Each image portrays a specific quantity of something: fifteen million sheets of office paper (five minutes of paper use); 106,000 aluminum cans (thirty seconds of can consumption) and so on. My hope is that images representing these quantities might have a different effect than the raw numbers alone, such as we find daily in articles and books. Statistics tend to feel abstract and anesthetizing, making it difficult to connect with and make meaning of 3.6 million SUV sales in one year, for example, or 2.3 million Americans in prison, or $12.5 million spent every hour on the Iraq war. This project visually examines these vast and bizarre measures of our society, in large intricately detailed prints assembled from thousands of smaller photographs.
Like all great visual work, the series warrants little more explanation. Jordan puts a caveat into his online statement that viewing these as JPGs betrays the full experience of witnessing them full-size in the gallery. But since not everybody will be in New York for his next exhibit (though if you are, get there!), you can see some pieces below and the entire series here.
(Info in first paragraph from a recent interview with Jordan in Japanese magazine flashfilm.com.)
Go see the entire series (link above)
- it's stunning
I live in Chicago and would love the opportunity to view these pieces in person. As is mentioned, the scope of the pieces do not truly come through on a computer screen.