Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Dear friends and followers of the Midway project,

As my team and I prepare to travel back to Midway Atoll, I cannot help but note the macabre juxtaposition of the environmental disaster that is happening in the Pacific Ocean, with the one that is happening in the Gulf of Mexico. The two phenomena are oddly parallel, involving (among other grotesque features) the deaths of untold numbers of sea birds, caused by millions of tons of our petroleum products that have poured into the ocean via our collective negligence. And in each case the birds can be viewed as messengers, serving as one small warming signal of a much larger calamity, with global consequences, in which our individual consumer lifestyles are unavoidably complicit.

My friend the artist Richard Lang says the opposite of beauty is not ugliness, but indifference. For me this means that to live ethical lives, we are called to turn toward the staggering enormity of human-caused catastrophes like the Pacific Garbage Patch and the Gulf Oil Disaster, opening our heart to their horrors, and taking the risk that we might be overwhelmed by the potent feelings this process brings up in us. I can see no other acceptable approach, yet I fear that by dwelling on the awfulness of these tragedies—and the smorgasbord of others we survey in the news every day—we may lose our already tenuous connection with life’s beauty, mystery, humor, and joy. I want to learn to stand in the paradox of these conflicting realities, turning more fully toward each of them despite the anxiety involved, as they generate their respective teachings about what it means to live as an engaged citizen in our times.

These are some thoughts and intentions I carry in mind, as we travel back to Midway to document another chapter in the richly metaphoric intersection of the mythic albatross and the ten million tons of plastic pollution that swirl in the remote waters of the North Pacific. I invite you to follow our expedition as we blog from the island on midwayjourney.com, and as we release our photographs, writings, and the documentary film that will follow.

Happy July to all, with warm regards from Seattle,

~cj

78 comments:

  1. This is the second time I've stumbled across your site. Your work is amazing. Hope the Midway trip goes well.

    Thank you.

    Richard Baybutt

    ReplyDelete
  2. Dear Chris,

    As the saying goes, "A picture's worth a thousand words." -- And, your pictures of the albatross chick's stomach contents say volumes about how we are messing up our planet.

    Thank you for letting us see what for many simply remains hidden.

    Regards,

    Jim Fontaine

    ReplyDelete
  3. Your images smash at our limits of understanding - thank you....How can we meaningfully think about facts like the BP Gulf spill and the great pacific trash gyre? You got me thinking about conversion rates. How many barrels of crude to make how many liters of petroleum to make how many tons of plastic to cover how many acres of ocean...? Or maybe: crude oil barrels = plastic filled chick bellies.

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  4. Hi Chris, I visited your Katrina show at Julie Baker's in the past and have the book... lovely. I am a high school commercial photography teacher now in Texas, and would love to integrate your work into my curriculum, especially the Midway and Intolerable Beauty projects.

    Since we live in one of the most abusive states when it comes to natural gas, drilling, assault on the environment, I think this would be a real eye opener for a lot of these kids. Is there a way to get the file (instead of having to use the internet to access the file) for the clip featuring your work with the school kids? I literally cried. Moving.

    Thanks - Shannon Perry
    sperryphoto@gmail.com

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  5. Hi Chris,

    Please keep us inform as much as possible by writing but also by photos...let's do it as Yann Arthus Bertrand does ..on Pikeo...have a look...http://www.pikeo.com/pikeo.jsp?profile=YAB&locale=fr

    All the best for all

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  6. Chris, I'm not sure if you know Ami Vitale's work - but she found her self wanting to walk away from photography after witnessing some of the atrocities in Kashmir. What kept her doing what she does was the humor, joy and resilience that people are capable of in the face of such horror. Your work is pulling us closer. Thank You

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