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Chris Jordan: A Slow-Motion Apycalypse in Progress

Chris Jordan was a successful lawyer in Seattle, USA. Then he decided to resign and work as a photographer. Today, he is a thriving artist with a great number of expositions. He and his wife made a deep transformation of their basis of life – the outcome is documented in most impressive photo series about the accumulated detritus of our consumption. Here are some excerpts from an interview, and also from his website:

“My spirit was dying inside, and I knew it, but I was afraid to make the leap into photography full-time because of the possibility of failing. The thing that finally got me going was a new kind of fear that crept up behind me over a period of several years: it was the fear of not living my life. This fear was motivating – it kind of pushed me forward.”

Today he is portraying American mass consumption: “The pervasiveness of our consumerism holds a seductive kind of mob mentality. Collectively we are committing a vast and unsustainable act of taking, but we each are anonymous and no one is in charge or accountable for the consequences. I fear that in this process we are doing irreparable harm to our planet and to our individual spirits.

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.”

“This new series looks at contemporary American culture through the austere lens of statistics. 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.”

“As with any large artwork, their scale carries a vital part of their substance which is lost in these little web images. Hopefully the JPEGs displayed here might be enough to arouse your curiosity to attend an exhibition, or to arrange one if you are in a position to do so.”

His photo series carry titles like: “Intolerable Beauty: Portraits of American Mass Consumption” – “In Katrina’s Wake: Portraits of Loss from an Unnatural Disaster” – “Running the Numbers – An American Self-Portrait”. The pictures are showing “a slow-motion apocalypse in progress”. Have a look at the website of Chris Jordan. His pictures are now also exhibited at the Q2 Gallery in Second Life.

Cans Seurat, 2007
Depicts 106,000 aluminum cans, the number used in the US every thirty seconds: cansseurat1.jpg

Partial zoom:

Detail at actual size:

Thanks, Chris, for the permission of reproduction.

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