Chris Jordan,

I’ve talked about Creative Live and Chase Jarvis a few times in posts on here. As well as the creative live stuff Chase Jarvis also does Chase Jarvis Live events where he invites in folk he admires to chat for an hour or two. This week he had a guy in called Chris Jordan. I’d never heard of Chris Jordan before. I have now…and I don’t think I’m going to be forgetting him for a while. He is not an iPhoneographer but his story is one that is worth hearing.

Chris Jordan is a conceptual artist and photographer. His work is beautiful and distressing and thought provoking. Some of it was really messing with my head. Lets take a step back though. Chris Jordan spent the first ten years of his working life as an attorney. He took this path as it was safe and well paid but all the time he was doing it he knew he wanted to do photography for a living. Fear of failure stopped him. He had convinced himself that if he left his well paid job that within a year he’d have used all  his savings, would have had his house repossessed and all his belongings would be lost and he”d be a alcoholic drug addled failure. Somehow though, from this huge state of negativity he managed to turn things around and become the activist artist he is today. Hearing him talk is uplifting.

He had been taking photographs for years and was drawn to colours. He liked taking beautiful images of colours. One day, he photographed a pile of rubbish in Seattle. He liked the glorious colour palate in it. It was on showing this to someone else and their comments about what they saw in the image of the rubbish pile that changed his life.

His work now swings from focussing on the excesses of first world consumption and what that entails to the shortages of basic living requirements in third world countries. While doing so it makes you think and confront your own beliefs and understanding but it doesn’t do so in an aggressive or judgemental way. Hearing him talk about his creative process was interesting. Just like #MissPixels, Chris Jordan has ideas before he has answers as to how to convey those ideas. Just now he is trying to work out  way to make folk think about the fact 750,000 folk will die of starvation in the next three months in Somalia, even although there is enough food to feed them. It’s just the food can’t get through to those that need it. His struggle is how to get that across in a meaningful, thought provoking manner.

Currently he’s working on a documentary about an island called Midway and what is happening to the birds on it. During the Chase Jarvis live event they played a short intro film about it and I have to say I found it very distressing. I’m not sure if I could bring myself to watch the final piece knowing what it’s likely to involve. You can see reruns of the interview at chase jarvis live just click on the top video that is ready to play and it should be the Chris Jordan one.

To end here are a couple of examples of what he gets up to. These are from his “Running the numbers” series where he tries to make the huge numbers involved more understandable by breaking them down in to more understandable chunks.

Plastic Bottles, 2007

Depicts two million plastic beverage bottles, the number used in the US every five minutes.

Ben Franklin, 2007
Depicts 125,000 one-hundred dollar bills ($12.5 million), the amount our government spends every hour on the war in Iraq.

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