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2021 SPE Annual Conference: Imagining Legacy: Archives, Collections, and Memoria

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In his alluring photographs, Chris Jordan coaxes us into confronting our implication in "the collective trance of our consumerism and runaway industrial growth," as he has said, and the way in which it wreaks havoc on our environment and every living being dependent upon it. Through both documentary and digitally manipulated photographs, he shows us the results of unchecked mass consumption. He has photographed mountains of cell phones, cars, and other consumer waste products, as well as the autopsied bodies of albatrosses on Midway Island, overflowing with scraps of plastic they pick up from the Pacific Ocean. In his ongoing "Running the Numbers" series (begun 2006), he makes staggering social and environmental statistics visible by transforming problems into pictures, including the head of a whale composed entirely of plastic bags. "My hope is that these photographs can serve as portals to a kind of cultural self-inquiry," Jordan says.

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