The impact of plastic on microscopic marine organisms is explored in Mandy Barker’s fascinating body of work BEYOND DRIFTING: IMPERFECTLY KNOWN ANIMALS.
It represents the degradation and contamination of plastic particles, by creating the perception of past scientific studies, when organisms where free from plastic.
“Current scientific research has found plankton ingest micro plastic particles, mistaking them for food, and they are themselves a crucial source of food for many of the larger creatures,” said Mandy.
“The potential impact on marine life and ultimately man itself is currently of vital concern.
“In terms of plankton, and of action, we are ‘Beyond Drifting’, and must bring into focus these ‘Imperfectly Known Animals’.”
Plankton form a diverse group of microscopic marine organisms existing in a drifting, floating state.
In this series unique ‘specimens’ relate to the pioneering discoveries made by John Vaughan Thompson in Cork Harbour during the 1800s.
Presented as microscopic samples, objects of plastic debris, recovered from the same location, mimic Thompson’s early scientific discoveries of plankton.
Each specimen featured in the series is given a new scientific name. These imitate early Latin origins and each name contains the word ‘plastic’ hidden within its title.
In this series, Mandy gives the viewer the sense of a unique insight into a hidden world.
Enveloping black space evokes the deep oceans beneath.
New ‘specimens’ created from recovered debris, serve as a metaphor to the ubiquity of plastic, encapsulating in miniature the much larger problem of an imperfect world.
Movements of the recovered plastic objects, recorded in camera over several seconds, represent the movement of individual plankton in the water column, which also parallels with the planets that have an apparent motion of their own.
By capturing the images on expired film and with faulty cameras, Mandy highlights the ‘imperfection’ in both technique and subject matter.
Film grain has intentionally been made visible, as a metaphor to the micro plastic particles being ingested.
Imperfectly Known Animals
A unique presentation style sees the series presented as a scientific book from the 1800s.
As well as reflecting the current situation regarding organisms intake of plastic, it also subtly includes the original writing, descriptions, and figures recorded by Thompson in his research memoirs of 1830, Imperfectly Known Animals.
The book uniquely captures our changing times along with both past and present research.
The Prix Pictet is recognised as the world’s leading prize for photography.
Now in its seventh cycle, the theme for this year’s prize is ‘Space’.
Twelve photographers have been shortlisted and their work will be exhibited in the V&A’s Porter Gallery from Saturday, May 6.
Mandy will also be holding a book signing at Photo London. It will be on Saturday, May 20, and Sunday, May 21, at Somerset House, East Wing Gallery in Booth C-2.
Copy editing by Sheena Campbell.