Chris Jordan is an artist and photographer who has spent the past nine years photographing the effects of plastics on our planet. A large part of this project, and Chris’s journey to reckon with the scale of this ongoing issue, have taken place on Midway Atoll. Midway is a cluster of islands 2000 miles from the nearest continent in the middle of the North Pacific Ocean.
Chris originally went to Midway to collaborate with another artist, Manuel Maqueda, to see how ocean plastic pollution could wreak havoc on a remote desolate area. The two artists captured images of the remains of birds who lived on the island, who had died with their bodies full of sharp, toxic, deadly pieces of plastic they had mistakenly consumed. Chris originally intended for this first series of photos to be the entirety of the project, but the emotional connection he had to the birds continued to draw him back to Midway for multiple trips. The more time Chris spent on the island observing the various birds, but especially the albatross, the more he had to face his grief over the amount of birds that were dying.
Working with a team of biologists and scientists who study the wildlife on the islands, Chris began to understand more about the natural life cycle of the albatross. The birds have a very high infant mortality rate, but it has gotten even higher with the onset of the ocean plastics pollution problem. Those who do live long enough to leave the island can live upwards of 60 years, returning back to the Midway Atoll to mate and give birth to the next generation. After creating a nest and laying and protecting an egg, trading off keeping it warm to go feed themselves, and a chick hatching, the parents will fly up to 10,000 miles in a week to fill themselves with food to bring back to their baby. From this first feeding, every single albatross on the islands eats consumes various amounts of plastic.
Chris has worked with a team of fellow artists, activists, and scientists to make a film called Albatross about his experience on the Midway Atoll, capturing what he saw and what he learned there. We hosted a small screening and discussion earlier this week with Chris, Parley for the Oceans, and our friends and families here in New York, ahead of the movies global release this Friday, June 8th, on World Oceans Day. Chris and Parley worked together to make the film freely available to anyone who wants to watch it. On Friday the film will be available to stream and download for free at albatrossthefilm.com.
After the screening, Chris was gracious enough to talk with us and answer some questions, as well as explain how the making of this movie radically changed his outlook on activism and environmentalism. He explained that through his grieving process, he realized that he felt a profound sense of love for the animals he had spent so much time documenting, and that the rage, anger, and grief he felt was over the loss of that love. Chris believes that acting as an individual doesn’t do enough to address the scale of the issue. As a community though, be it us as a company or the extended community of our customers, followers, and friends, are charged with working together to spur action at a bigger scale. As we continue our plastics free week, Chris charged us with a mission to help spread a bigger message, that we together can be the cause of a collective change that goes beyond each of us as a person, and instead can shape the community that we hope to create.
Please take some time this weekend to not only watch Chris’s incredibly important and moving movie, but to share it with your own community so that his message can continue to spread.