Photographer Chris Jordan on his Midway Project

I’m a huge fan of the work of a friend of mine, photographer Chris Jordan. His work is both subtle and bold, timely and timeless. Among other things, it beautifully (albeit tragically) explores human consumerism/consumption and the resulting detriments to the planet. From his work, we get a sense of freedom to grieve this predicament, but also a motivation toward change and inspired cause-based activism. The above video is a short chronicle of Chris’ midway project–a heavy, but brilliant undertaking.

This interview is the work of a longtime filmmaker buddy, Riley Morton, and is the first step in a collaboration between myself and Riley where we get together and–via my curation of subjects and his interviews–tell short stories about interesting people in our professional circles. It’s my hope that you’ll like learning about Chris and his work. If this idea catches on, I’d like to do more of these with other folks too.

More of Chris’ work here.

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Young Knapik says:

Thanks a lot for sharing this post. Definitely people will find this as very helpful.

Andy Elbe says:

When will the full documentary be out???. I have shown about 100 of the middle years students at my school a few videos like this one. On the garbage patch and “a journey of a plastic bag”. It is beginning to make a difference to our immediate school environment. Slowly. It’s the adults that need to pick up the crusade too…. Chris Jordan has already made a huge difference in making us aware. We – the global we – need to do the rest and not see it as someone bigger’s problem, but our own. OIL spills are something we all get upset about but essentially are something we directly can’t do a damn thing about and pale into environmental insignificance compared to this. Ironic that oil is used to make plastic. I tell my kids a handful of rubbish picked up a day saves one bird a week. A handful a day dropped kills one painfully… Help fly or make them die…

The problem is so great. I had never heard of the Pacific Garbage Patch, nor did I know birds mistake trash for food to this degree. Just recently I was made aware of the Plastic Pollution Coalition. Please support The Plastic Pollution Coalition. They have an exhibit beginning June 3 at the Monterey History and Maritime Museum, 5 Custom House Plaza, Monterey CA (831) 372-2608. This film clip would be perfect for raising awareness asap. Let’s make a difference.

Matt Momberger says:

Extremely hard video for me to watch. Very Powerful, thank you very much.

DanielKphoto says:

Shit, this is really bad :(

michelle says:

wow. no words.

Christian says:

I personally didn’t know that birds would die of eating plastic. Quite disturbing to see. But then on a photographers point of view something fresh to see. No models, no prepped scene. Just the brutality of life. Somehow gorgeous yet very disturbing. Shout out to the team for putting this up.

fas says:

AWesome video. Very inspiring. Talent is never hidden for long.

Rhoda says:

Thank you for sharing Chris’ work and helping to spread awareness of this tragic reality of our time. I’ve known about the garbage patch for quite some time, but in conversations people tend to distance themselves from the potential problem we’ve created. Hopefully Chris’ work will help to connect people to the problem, thereby giving them motivation to do something about it.

Paul S says:

I had heard about this in the documentary, Tapped, where they spent a few minutes talking about the garbage patch. Chris’s work is exceptional and captures this problem in full detail.
People can make a difference… just takes one individual at a time.

Thanks for sharing Chase!

Wow. Impactful and tragic. Thanks for sharing this video, and Chris’ work.

jake scott says:

DANG…wow thats tragic.
eye opener

Grunge says:

Unbelievable. The question is, how do we work on fixing it? It’s a little known disaster…but a disaster none the less and just like the BP oil spill. Difference is not a lot of people know/see the results.

Ethan says:

Thanks so much for sharing Chase!
What a powerful and touching project, don’t really know what else to say …
I agree with Chris that we have to face what is going on in this world – the good and there is plenty of that and the bad – it is essential not to look away!
Amazing, powerful and distressing work!

Gerhard says:

Living in New Zealand surrounded by the the Oceans, Chrises work is an eye opener!

niiall says:

This just need to be tidied up. This can’t be allowed to happen.

bimal nair says:

it was getting unbearable within a minute…the visuals are so strong and barging. Wish we have direct access to boards/orgs that deal with such mass destructive scenarios.

Great work and project !

Tracie says:

wow. I am in tears here. So upsetting, and fills me with anger at what we have left for our children and our children’s children. Thank you for your honesty in showing us what we have done.

jetgreen1 says:

Ongoing tragedy that everyone of us has a bit of ownness in…Shape up and watch where and what and how you consume..I would rather kill a few trees for some renewable paper cups than suck on bottles of water made of plastic!

Charlie says:

Chase,

Thanks for the video. I look forward to more.

I can see how a photographer of environmental issues would find it worrisome that their pictures would be too controversial for print and have too much of a negative effect on the viewer. An effect that can result in less constructive conversations and more backlash or just too much shock.

I respect him for having the courage to print these pictures.

I don’t know too many photographers who concentrate on the environment and that may be just because I chose not too.

But, I do love Edward Burtynsky pictures. The ones of the tailing ponds hit home since I’ve worked on some and seen them up close.

Lori Rowles says:

I think it’s all been said quite well in the above comments. I had to force myself to watch this because I knew it would be upsetting, but that’s just it…IT SHOULD BE!!! I wish I could sit everyone down and have them take a look at this type of documentation. It is so important to become aware and become responsible for our actions. I am so grateful for The Chris Jordans and so many others that go out and take these project on. I would like to believe that this will make a difference on how we live. Thanks for this. I will be sharing it on FB also.

Kent Jakusz says:

Thank you for the effort. Very well done. Tragic but well done and necessary. I feel hopeless, helpless and disgusted by the attitudes and actions of my fellow man. What does the future hold?

Keep up the good work.
Kent

Dan Kaufman says:

I was only able to watch about a minute of the video. It’s so tragic. It brought me to tears and I clicked it off.

Brian says:

Great post. Check out this documentary that follows some environmentalist out to the Northern Gyre in the pacific ocean where all this plastic is accumulating. Pretty eye-opening stuff…

http://www.vbs.tv/watch/toxic/toxic-garbage-island-full-length

Sean says:

This would be so great if the sound mix allowed me to hear what he’s saying. His voice is distant and low and since the track has a lot of low tones, his VO is almost buried.

Florian says:

Man, what are we doing with our nature?! It needs people like Chris Jordan to show the world the truth.

Michael says:

This is great chase. I saw Chris’s work a few months ago, while i loved the work i felt disconnected from the message. This interview changed that, being able to see Chris talk about his work and about the environmental situation surrounding the midway project gives me a much different emotional understanding of his images.

So a tip of the hat to you sir, for sharing this.
A tip of the hat to Rilely Morton for filming this interview,
And two tips of the hat to Chris for doing this project and bringing us closer to the consequences of consumerism.

Chase says:

that’s a really meaningful thing to hear – helps us know that our attempts to amplify chris and his work is worth the effort. much appreciated.

JC says:

What an incredibly powerful message….. Bold and striking yet saddening…. Saddening because it tells of the darker side of what we, as a race have become where our need for advancements out weighs the survival of the very place that makes it possible for us to exist… Thanks for sharing you vision Chris and to you as well, Chase for making us aware of Chris and his Midway Project….

Geoff says:

I love Chris Jordan, super intelligent person who tackles some really big issues. Thanks for sharing and I hope everyone here passes this round to friends to educate and hopefully motivate us to pull our heads out of the sand…

Laurent Egli says:

It seems logical but seeing it happen is something else. It’s not an easy path he took but a very humble one.

mel haynes says:

I too have known about the garbage patch, but have never seen the effects it has on the birds like this. What an amazing and powerful project. The really depressing part of this tragedy is that it may bring awareness to this monumental problem, but I feel thats where it will end. What action will take place? What will we do about this? Can it be fixed? Can we help these animals? Sadly I think the answers are grim. I would like to think the people of the planet will all come together and solve this problem, but, at least in the US, we are more concerned about cutting and deficits and avoiding government shutdowns over the bigger picture.

Thanks for sharing this photographer’s work with us Chase and hopefully bringing more awareness of this problem to more people. Who knows, maybe the right people will see this and start something good.

My heart just crumbled.

Joe Sanky says:

Stunning. Humbling, and maddening, but stunning.

Brian says:

Incredibly powerful stuff. Thanks for sharing, Chase.

Mike Revelle says:

That’s a pretty incredible piece Chase, thanks for sharing!

Mike Folden says:

This is an amazing video. Extremely well done but really the story is the amazing part. I’ve heard about the “patch” before but have never really seen photos or any documentation. This brings the awareness. I will be sharing this for sure.

Thanks Chase!

joop says:

A bit depressing, but still beautiful. Thanks.

Andy says:

Very Tragic to see this happening…This is an incredible project by Chris Jordan

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