Visualizing Consumerism

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Seattle-based photographer Chris Jordan is showing a new series of images called Running the Numbers starting Saturday in LA. Running the Numbers features images based on specific quantities -- generally large numbers of consumer products we typically don't think about -- where the statistics are so large, we generally can't visualize their scale. Pictured below is a quick preview of my favorite, "Plastic Bags, 2007" which depicts 60,000 plastic bags -- according to Jordan, this is the number used in the US every five seconds. (He also does grocery store paper bags in another image -- 1.14 million per hour in the US.)

By displaying the images in multiple levels of zoom on the web, you can get at least some idea of what these images look like in a gallery. But to really understand the scope of the images, you can see them at the Paul Kopeikin Gallery in Los Angeles, opening September 8. If you can't make it, check out Running the Numbers online. Then read an interview with Jordan. Here's a bit more detail on Running the Numbers from Jordan's web site:

This new series 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 426,000 cell phones retired every day. This project visually examines these vast and bizarre measures of our society, in large intricately detailed prints assembled from thousands of smaller photographs. My underlying desire is to affirm and sanctify the crucial role of the individual in a society that is increasingly enormous, incomprehensible, and overwhelming.

If you like Running the Numbers, check out Jordan's other work.

Link via Your Daily Awesome.

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September 5, 2007 - 1:00am
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