The above is some photographic artwork by Chris Jordan Photography. It’s part of a series of portraits in a collection called “Running the numbers II – Portraits of Global Mass culture.
The description for the collection is worth repeating in full here :
This new series looks at mass phenomena that occur on a global scale. Similarly to the first Running the Numbers series, each image portrays a specific quantity of something: the number of tuna fished from the world’s oceans every fifteen minutes, for example. But this time the statistics are global in scale, rather than specifically American.
Finding meaning in global mass phenomena can be difficult because the phenomena themselves are invisible, spread across the earth in millions of separate places-many of them remote to us geographically and culturally. There is no Mount Everest of waste that we can make a pilgrimage to and behold the sobering aggregate of our discarded stuff, seeing and feeling it viscerally with our senses. We cannot personally witness the 27 million people in the world today who live as slaves; the 1.2 billion who lack access to safe drinking water; the 100 million sharks that are killed each year for their fins; and so on.
Instead, we are stuck with trying to comprehend the gravity of these phenomena through the anaesthetizing and emotionally barren language of statistics. Sociologists tell us that the human mind cannot meaningfully grasp numbers higher than a few thousand; yet every day we read of mass phenomena characterized by numbers in the millions, billions, even trillions. Compounding this challenge is our own frightening sense of insignificance as individuals in a world of 6.7 billion people. And we fear that if we take the risk of fully opening ourselves to the horrors of our times, we may become overwhelmed and emotionally paralyzed.
My own belief is that it is worth connecting with these issues and allowing them to matter to us personally, despite the complex mixtures of anger, fear, grief, and rage that this process can entail. Perhaps these uncomfortable feelings can become part of what connects us, serving as fuel for our individual and collective choices as citizens of a new kind of global community ethic. This hope continues to motivate my work.
The first two pieces below depict statistics about the overfishing of sharks and tuna, two apex predators that are crucial to the world’s marine ecosystems. New images on other issues will be coming soon, so please stay tuned, and thank you for visiting.
The image above “Depicts 270,000 fossilized shark teeth, equal to the estimated number of sharks of all species killed around the world every day for their fins”.
Viewed from a distance, two sharks are visible in the centre of the canvas. Zoom in and the composition of the image is revealed.
Many more images are on the site and they truly bring home the scale of the impact we have on the planet. The images from the original Running the numbers are incredible too showing the 2 million plastic beverage bottles used in the U.S. every five minutes. Scary stuff.