Mandy Barker image 276 pieces of plastic found in the stomach of one Albatross chick

Mandy Barker: Our Plastic Ocean

Mandy Barker addresses the current global crisis of marine plastic pollution in her latest exhibition.

Collecting debris from shorelines across the world, she transforms her finds into powerful and captivating images.

Our Plastic Ocean, which premiered at Impressions Gallery, is the first major touring retrospective of her work.

“We are proud to launch the first major UK touring retrospective of Mandy Barker’s work at Impressions Gallery,” said curator Angela Sheard.

“Barker’s images are both rich in detail and hard hitting in subject.

“As a charity that helps people understand the world through photography, it’s important for us to share this compelling work which explores an urgent and timely issue.”

Clothing and material debris found in the ocean by Mandy Barker
Clothing & Material 1 – 5 Years, or INDEFINITE? From the series Indefinite.
© Mandy Barker/courtesy Impressions Gallery

Plastic waste in our seas

At first glance, Barker’s images are reminiscent of sea creatures and corals suspended in a dark void beneath the sea, but closer inspection reveals a more disturbing reality.

From footballs to fishing nets, cotton-buds to coffee-cup lids, Barker highlights the incongruous plastic items now ubiquitous in our seas.

The exhibition also features notebooks and journals documenting Barker’s voyages and research; a case of sand permeated with microplastics recovered from a Hawaiian beach; and an installation of suspended footballs, crowd sourced from around the world for her 2014 World Cup project Penalty.

Currently, eight million tonnes of plastic end up in the world’s oceans every year.

If these trends continue, our oceans could contain more plastic than fish by 2050.

Mandy Barker's images of plastic debris at Impressions Gallery
Installation shot: Mandy Barker Our Plastic Ocean

Mandy Barker – chasing plastic

From accompanying scientists on an expedition tracing the debris of the 2011 Tsunami from Hawaii to Japan, to a voyage on board Greenpeace’s Beluga II to the Inner Hebrides, Barker has followed a trail of plastic pollution across the globe.

The images resulting from these expeditions have become some of the most recognisable visual commentary on marine plastic pollution.

Our Plastic Ocean spans a decade of Barker’s work.

It includes the series Soup, meticulously detailed composite images of discarded plastic objects; Albatross revealing 276 pieces of plastic found inside the stomach of a 90 day old albatross chick; and Beyond Drifting, which sees Barker trace the footsteps of 19th-century botanist John Vaughan Thompson who collected plankton specimens, the ocean’s most basic life-form.

“For the past decade, I have researched and documented the impact of oceanic waste, combining art and science to raise awareness,” said Barker.

“I hope to inspire positive action in tackling this increasing environmental challenge which is of global concern”.

Our Plastic Ocean

Mandy Barker: Our Plastic Ocean, free entry, until September 21.

An Impressions Gallery touring exhibition curated by Angela Sheard.

Spectrum Photographic is the print partner producing C-type Matt print mounted to Aluminium.

Main image: From Albatross series, 276 pieces of plastic found in the stomach of one 90-day-old Albatross chick from Midway Island, North Pacific Ocean 2012 © Mandy Barker/courtesy Impressions Gallery.

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