Chris Jordan is an acclaimed photographic artist and cultural activist based in Seattle. His work explores contemporary mass culture from a
variety of photographic and conceptual perspectives, connecting the viewer viscerally to the enormity and power of humanity’s collective
Jordan’s images edge-walk the lines between art and activism, beauty and horror, abstraction and representation, the near and the far, the
visible and the invisible. His work asks us to look both inward and outward at the traumatized landscapes of our collective choices. Jordan’s
work reaches an increasingly broad international audience through his exhibitions, books, website, interviews on radio and television, and
speaking engagements and school visits all over the world.
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|Silent Spring, 2014 44x58" and 60x80"; made from 28 graphite drawings by Rebecca Clark
Depicts 183,000 birds, equal to the estimated number of birds that die in the United States every day from exposure to agricultural pesticides.
Unsinkable, 2013 60x107"
Depicts 67,000 mushroom clouds, equal to the number of metric tons of ultra-radioactive uranium/plutonium waste being stored in temporary
pools at the 104 nuclear power plants across the U.S. These waste pools must be cooled with hundreds of thousands of gallons of constantly
circulating water, and many plants have inadequate or nonexistent backup cooling systems in case of power loss. In the U.S. and around the
world, the waste pools are under-protected, over-filled, and vulnerable to earthquakes, storms, malfeasance, and human error. In 1997 the
Brookhaven National Laboratory estimated that a calamity at just one of these waste pools in the U.S. could cause 138,000 American deaths
(more than the number of Japanese who died in the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima), and contaminate 2,000 square miles of our land.
Currently, the waste pool in Reactor Unit 4 at Japan’s Fukushima-Daiichi plant is at risk for collapse. The building is unstable, and the cracked
and leaking pool contains 262 tons of ultra-radioactive uranium/plutonium waste. For months, Fukushima has been experiencing numerous
earthquakes from magnitude 4.1 to 6.2, sometimes several per day. If a magnitude 7 earthquake were to occur, causing the Unit 4 waste pool
to rupture and drain, the resulting meltdown and fires could release ten times more airborne radioactive material than was released by the
Chernobyl disaster. At that point humans could no longer enter or operate the facility, potentially leading to a chain reaction of meltdown
events at Fukushima’s five other units, releasing 85 times as much radiation as the Chernobyl disaster.
The United States lies downwind of Fukushima, only a few days across the Pacific via the jet stream. The jet stream would carry radioactive
material into the interior of the United States, eventually circling the globe and reaching the entire northern hemisphere within weeks or
months. The amount of radiation released “would destroy the world environment and our civilization,” according to Robert Alvarez, former
Senior Policy Adviser for National Security and the Environment at the U.S. Department of Energy.
|Building Blocks, 2013 14x20 feet, in 70 2x2-foot panels
Depicts 1.2 million children’s building blocks, equal to the number of students who drop out of high school every year in the U.S. This averages
about 7000 students per school day.
|Car Keys, 2011 60x86"
Depicts 260,000 car keys, equal to the number of gallons of gasoline burned in motor vehicles in the US every minute.
|Over the Moon, 2011 44x44" and 60x60"
Depicts 29,000 credit cards, equal to the average number of personal bankruptcy filings every week in the US in 2010.
|Three Second Meditation, 2011 44x44" and 60x60"
Depicts 9,960 mail order catalogs, equal to the average number of pieces of junk mail that are printed,
shipped, delivered, and disposed of in the US every three seconds.
|Light Bulbs, 2008 72x96"
Depicts 320,000 light bulbs, equal to the number of kilowatt hours of electricity wasted in the United States every minute
from inefficient residential electricity usage (inefficient wiring, computers in sleep mode, etc.).
|Skull With Cigarette, 2007 98x72"
Depicts 200,000 packs of cigarettes, equal to the number of Americans who die from cigarette smoking every six months. Based on a painting
by Van Gogh.
|Oil Barrels, 2008 60x60"
Depicts 28,000 42-gallon barrels, the amount of oil consumed in the United States every two minutes (equal to the flow of a medium-sized river).
|Ben Franklin, 2007 8.5 feet wide by 10.5 feet tall in three horizontal panels
Depicts 125,000 one-hundred dollar bills ($12.5 million), the amount our government spends every hour on the war in Iraq.
In Katrina's Wake: Portraits of Loss from an Unnatural Disaster
This series, photographed in New Orleans in November and December of 2005, portrays the cost of Hurricane Katrina on a personal scale.
Although the subjects are quite different from those in my earlier Intolerable Beauty series, this project is motivated by the same concerns
about our runaway consumerism.
There is evidence to suggest that Katrina was not an entirely natural event like an earthquake or tsunami. The 2005 hurricane season's
extraordinary severity can be linked to global warming, which America contributes to in disproportionate measure through our extravagant
consumer and industrial practices. Never before have the cumulative effects of our consumerism become so powerfully focused into a visible
form, like the sun's rays narrowed through a magnifying glass. Almost 300,000 Americans lost everything they owned in the Katrina disaster.
The question in my mind is whether we are all responsible in some degree.
The hurricane's damage has been further amplified by other human causes, including failures of preparedness and response on many
levels; existing poverty conditions; levee problems that were mired in political maneuverings; poor environmental and wetlands practices that
left some areas more vulnerable; and the conspicuous absence of federal resources that were already being used in the Bush
Administration's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
From that perspective, my hope is that these images might encourage some reflection on the part that we each play, and the loss that we all
suffer, when a preventable catastrophe of this magnitude happens to the people of our own country. Katrina has illuminated our
interconnectedness, and it makes our personal accountability as members of a conscious society ever more difficult to deny.
~ cj, New Orleans, December, 2005
|Remains of a home (#2), Ninth Ward neighborhood, New Orleans
|Ball field, St. Bernard Parish
|Tree limbs in Lakeview Park, New Orleans
|Refrigerator in a tree near Port Sulphur
|Masonic Lodge near Port Sulfur, LA
|Baptist church, Ninth Ward neighborhood
|Mardi Gras beads outside a party store, Chalmette neighborhood
|Running the Numbers: An American Self-Portrait
(2006 - Current)
Running the Numbers looks at contemporary American culture through the austere lens of statistics. Each image portrays a specific quantity of
something: fifteen million sheets of office paper (five minutes of paper use); 106,000 aluminum cans (thirty seconds of can consumption) and so on. My
hope is that images representing these quantities might have a different effect than the raw numbers alone, such as we find daily in articles and books.
Statistics can feel abstract and anesthetizing, making it difficult to connect with and make meaning of 3.6 million SUV sales in one year, for example, or
2.3 million Americans in prison, or 32,000 breast augmentation surgeries in the U.S. every month.
This project visually examines these vast and bizarre measures of our society, in large intricately detailed prints assembled from thousands of smaller
photographs. Employing themes such as the near versus the far, and the one versus the many, I hope to raise some questions about the roles and
responsibilities we each play as individuals in a collective that is increasingly enormous, incomprehensible, and overwhelming.
~cj, Seattle, 2008