I’m exceptionally late to the party with this one, as it’s a series from 2003-2005 – so apologies if it’s old news to you. But in case you haven’t already seen it, Chris Jordan’s Intolerable Beauty – Portraits of American Mass Consumption is well worth a look:
The strange combination of beauty and horror for me also serves as a potent metaphor for our consumerism. When you stand at a distance, consumerism can look pretty attractive—all the nice shiny cars and houses and clothes and plasma TVs and so on. But when you get up close and look at our overworked dysfunctional families, the waste streams of our products, the wars our greed is fostering, worldwide environmental degradation, toxic metals in the breast milk of Eskimo women, birth defects in the children of the mothers who assemble our electronics in China, then you start to see that our consumer lifestyle is not so pretty. I try to create this effect in my photos, where it looks like one thing from a distance and then up close you realize it is something else.
Also by Chris Jordan and well worth checking out, are his series Running the Numbers (and Running the Numbers II) which are stunningly beautiful visualisations. The first looks at “contemporary American culture through the austere lens of statistics”, where “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”. The second looks at “mass phenomena that occur on a global scale…the number of tuna fished from the world’s oceans every fifteen minutes, for example”.
Barbie Dolls, from the first Running the Numbers series, in 2008, was particularly arresting – it features 32,000 Barbies, equal to the number of elective breast augmentation surgeries performed monthly in the US in 2006:
[ full interview about Intolerable Beauty at Orion Magazine ]