As individual and anonymous consumers, it’s seemingly impossible to even estimate the physical ramifications of our daily consumption and waste. While our personal imprints may not seem in themselves worthy of alarm, the combined effect of human’s habits and rituals is hard to look away from.
Photographer Chris Jordan works with the debris we as a society leave behind, photographing massive dumps of cell phones, crushed cars and circuit boards. Squished together in dizzying quantities, the discarded goods resemble hypnotic puzzles, abstracted color fields and hallucinatory fractals. Jordan compares the complex layers of wreckage to the overwhelming detail of the Grand Canyon.
The series, dubbed “Intolerable Beauty: Portraits of American Mass Consumption,” shows the unmistakable imprint of our American culture in all its horror and strange, dark appeal. “I am appalled by these scenes, and yet also drawn into them with awe and fascination,” Jordan explained in an email to The Huffington Post. “The immense scale of our consumption can appear desolate, macabre, oddly comical and ironic, and even darkly beautiful; for me its consistent feature is a staggering complexity.”
Faced with Jordan’s unshakeable images, we lose our ability to shrug off the consequences of our consumption, a small but necessary first step on the way to lasting change. “As an American consumer myself, I am in no position to finger wag; but I do know that when we reflect on a difficult question in the absence of an answer, our attention can turn inward, and in that space may exist the possibility of some evolution of thought or action. So my hope is that these photographs can serve as portals to a kind of cultural self-inquiry. It may not be the most comfortable terrain, but I have heard it said that in risking self-awareness, at least we know that we are awake.”
See Jordan’s striking works below and watch as dumped electronics morph into something resembling brushstrokes or building blocks. Let us know your thoughts in the comments.