Salvaged plastics imitate bizarre and beautiful sea life
THE creatures of the deep take on bizarre and beautiful forms: the straggly jellyfish, the striated oyster in its shell, the gelatinous un-form of the blobfish.
But give this image (also featured on our cover) more than a passing glance and you will see that these are not natural creations. Each is a piece of partly burned plastic that photographer Mandy Barker collected from a beach somewhere in the world – just a few of the estimated 5 trillion pieces polluting our oceans and shorelines (see “Fixing planet plastic: How we’ll really solve our waste problem”). The blue jellyfish at bottom left is the remains of a fishing crate, the oyster shell at top right a mass of polythene, the blob at bottom centre a large, flattened oil container.
This is one of a series of images of salvaged plastic that Barker has been producing since 2011, using detritus amassed either on her own voyages or on trips with scientists investigating the health of the oceans. Her sense of mission was awakened on coastal walks along Spurn Head in Yorkshire, UK. “Over the years, I began to see more waste piling up,” she says. “The fascination led me to visit more regularly and find more disturbing things.”
By photographing the waste objects in groups and overlaid on a stark black background, Barker aims to make visually attractive artworks that draw people in. “Then when they read the caption they get the stab in the back.”
Barker’s work will be displayed at events including Photo London, 17-20 May; the Triennial of Photography Hamburg, Germany, from 7 June; and BredaPhoto, the Netherlands, from 5 September
This article appeared in print under the headline “Waste life”
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