Wednesday, May 23, 2007,9:34 AM
Running the Numbers
I recently came across an amazing art collection that takes a hard look at our consumption. Chris Jordan Photography is a must see site - go there right now. He has posted a few of his photographic series there. One is a haunting look at post-Katrina New Orleans. Another is entitled "Intolerable Beauty: A Portrait in American Mass Consumption" and the newest one is "Running the Numbers: An American Self-portrait." This last one is the most amazing and disturbing. He writes -
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. Statistics can 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 426,000 cell phones retired every day. This project visually examines these vast and bizarre measures of our society, in large intricately detailed prints assembled from thousands of smaller photographs.


The art is stunning and the numbers are scary. It truly is a portrait of our consumption and waste. Hopefully a visual image of the aftereffects of our actions will cause us to stop and think every now and then. Here are a few of the images. They are hard to get the sense of in the small jpeg forms. On the site you can see the full image as well as partial and actual size zooms.

Plastic Bottles - Depicts two million plastic beverage bottles, the number used in the US every five minutes.(zoomed)



Cell Phones -
Depicts 426,000 cell phones, equal to the number of cell phones retired in the US every day. (zoomed)



Plastic Bags - Depicts 60,000 plastic bags, the number used in the US every five seconds.


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posted by Julie at 9:34 AM ¤ Permalink ¤


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