Chris Jordan and the Midway Project

Since watching citizens of Carolina Beach (see my last post) stand up at a Town Council meeting and share their various arguments to ban cigarette smoking from their beloved beach, and since walking on that same beach, noticing cigarette butts littering the shore, I've been reminded of devastation the ocean experiences as a result of human negligence. The stories I heard that night ranged from logical to deeply emotional. Of course, litter is always an eyesore and a pollutant, but one citizen argued that cigarettes are particularly damaging to our environment, for their hundreds of toxins and the cellulose acetate fibers (plastic) that make them slow to biodegrade.

Another citizen talked of her moving to Carolina Beach on the suggestion of her doctor because she was living with cancer; she requires fresh air and a clean environment to be well, but often when she walks along the beach, the smoke around her causes her lungs to produce an asthma-like attack, requiring her to take medication.

The beach smoking debate made me think of artist and photographer Chris Jordan, who is best known for his large-scale photography installations that remark on various current social and environmental trends, particularly devastation.

Take a look at Jordan's most current collection, Message From the Gyre, but be warned that it is eye-opening and graphic. When I checked his website, I learned that in addition to photography, Jordan is currently working on the Midway Project, a film meant to illuminate the extent to which plastic garbage continues to affect life on our planet. I can't wait to see the finished film!

"On Midway Atoll, a remote cluster of islands more than 2000 miles from the nearest continent, the detritus of our mass consumption surfaces in an astonishing place: inside the stomachs of thousands of dead baby albatrosses. The nesting chicks are fed lethal quantities of plastic by their parents, who mistake the floating trash for food as they forage over the vast polluted Pacific Ocean." - Chris Jordan

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What I most appreciate about Jordan is his mingling of honesty and hope. Although this project tackles an alarming and monumental environmental tragedy, the Midway Project is not about despair. It is a reminder to all of us of our daily choices and our inescapable interconnectedness.

“I envision our project not as being a bunch of us tramping around the island with cameras; instead I hope it will be an emotional and spiritual journey by a deeply connected group of artists, to honor the issues that Midway represents. Maybe it is not too ambitious to hope—if we can fully rise to the occasion—that we might be able to co-create a multi-media work of art that tenderly witnesses this middle point that humanity finds itself at right now. And in the eye of the storm —the apex of the Gyre—perhaps our collaborative efforts can create a container for healing that might have some small effect on the collective choice that is to come.” - Chris Jordan,