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Beyond Drifting.
Imperfectly Known Animals.

Photographs Mandy Barker. Designed by Mandy Barker and Tiffany Jones.
Overlapse, London, England, 2017. 104 pp., 59 color illustrations, 7x9".

Publisher's Description

This body of work is shortlisted for the 2017 Prix Pictet, the global award in photography and sustainability.

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.


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