Beyond Drifting: Imperfectly Known Animals encapsulates in miniature the much larger environmental problems of an imperfect world. This work presents a unique collection of plankton specimens related to the pioneering discoveries made by naturalist JV Thompson in Cork Harbour during the 1800s. These recently found specimens are deceptive, however, and mysteriously conceal their true origin.
Plankton form a diverse group of microscopic marine organisms that are unable to swim against powerful ocean currents; they exist in a drifting, floating state, enveloped in the black deep.
As fragile as they are, current scientific research shows that plankton ingest microplastic particles, mistaking them for food. Plankton are a crucial source of food for larger creatures up the food chain – compounding the grave impact of plastics on marine life and, ultimately, humans. Plastic debris is now ubiquitous in the Anthropocene, the period since humanity has had a significant impact on our global environment, and today nearly all living creatures are affected by its widespread contamination.
The plankton specimens in this work are beautifully photographed objects of marine plastic debris, recovered from the same location as naturalist John Vaughan Thompson’s plankton samples from 200 years ago. Long-exposure photographs record movements of recovered plastic objects floating in a black void, captured on expired film and with faulty cameras. Film grain is intentionally visible, alluding to microplastic particles being ingested. Each specimen has a new scientific name reflecting early Latin origins and containing the word ‘plastic’ hidden within its title.
Based in Leeds UK, Mandy Barker is an international award winning photographer whose work involving marine plastic debris has received global recognition. Beyond Drifting: Imperfectly Known Animals was shortlisted for the 2017 Prix Pictet, the global award in photography and sustainability.
Barker’s work has been published widely including in TIME, National Geographic, Wired, The Financial Times, The Guardian, VICE, Smithsonian, and in numerous photographic publications. She has exhibited worldwide including at The Victoria & Albert Museum, The Photographers Gallery and Somerset House in London, The Aperture Foundation in New York, and The Science and Technology Park in Hong Kong. She was awarded the LensCulture Earth Award in 2015 and The Royal Photographic Society’s Environmental Bursary in 2012 which enabled her to join scientists for a research expedition in the tsunami debris field in the Pacific Ocean.
This body of work is shortlisted for the 2017 Prix Pictet (SPACE), the global award in photography and sustainability. All shortlisted photographers exhibit their works 5-28 May 2017 at the V&A in London. See www.prixpictet.com
Also exhibiting in 2017 at: 24 March – 23 April at FORMAT Photography Festival HABITAT June – July at Sirius Arts Centre, Cobh, Cork, Ireland
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