The clock is ticking . . .

Thursday, 6 April 2017

It was photographer Joel Coleman’s aggravation that inspired his latest project after he witnessed a disturbing scene on Manly Beach; the reckless creation of plastic pollution in our oceans.

The scene Joel saw could look like innocent family fun - a water balloon fight on the beach. What remained, however, were tiny particles of broken balloon, trampled into the sand and washed out to sea.

As a photographer with access to a large audience online and through his gallery in Manly, Joel uses his photography to convey his very passionate environmental stance.

Joel’s biggest frustration was born from the lack of available alternatives. He realised that the problem was in the creation of disposable plastic items in the first place and set out to create a series of work that inspired grass-roots level thinking about viable alternatives to our plastic-dependant lifestyles.

Joel likens our relationship with plastic to a quote he heard when Andrew Denton interviewed known heroin addict Wendy Whiteley.

‘Describe heroin, what’s it like?’ he asked Wendy.
‘Oh it’s euphoric, it solves all your problems… Except it kills you.’

“Anyone who walks along a beach and looks down at the tide line will see humanities euphoric addiction to plastic ending up in the ocean and will realise that the analogy of Wendy’s heroin addiction is a harsh reality.” Says Joel 

A 2016 Report on the “circular economy” estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the sea, by weight, than fish.

The 2017 United Nations Clean Seas Campaign estimated that there are 51 trillion microplastic particles in the ocean today—500 times more than the number of stars in our galaxy.

This problem is multi-faceted. For one, plastic pollution is an animal rights issue as it endangers more than 600 species from ingestion or entanglement.

It is also a human health issue. In the ocean, plastic absorbs toxic chemicals like PCBs and DDTs — chemicals linked to endocrine disruption and even cancer. These toxic plastics then work their way up the food chain and onto our plates.

For Joel, inspired by the Wright brothers who invented powered flight by tinkering in their own workshop behind their bicycle business, he believes momentous change occurs not necessarily with corporations that have the large budgets, but those who care enough to think, experiment and innovate until they have a solution.

The result is a set of two intriguing artworks, “The Thinker” and “The Dreamer”.

“The Thinker” depicts garage-level thinking to solve one of the most complex problems of our time, while “The Dreamer” represents the ideal outcome. Both artworks, photographed underwater, include balloons sitting on the water line above as a subtle reference to the problem that lurks over us if ignored. The artworks each include a clock, signifying the critical factor of time.

The set for each shoot was built and then sunk in a pool and photographed underwater, meeting Coleman’s skills and speciality of shooting almost anything underwater. 

Joel, who travels the world extensively as part of his photography career, claims that at every destination he has travelled to, he was struck by the massive issue of plastic pollution. It wasn’t a case of which location, it was the degree of how bad it was at any given location.

Joel’s next  photographic series focuses on the destruction of reefs all around the world by the mostly unknown use of Oxybenzone, currently used in most  sunscreens. This series will be released later in 2017. 

Joel Coleman is a Sydney based photographer with an environmental stance and a very clear message with his work.

You can read his full blog about his latest series Thinking Plastic HERE

Check out Joel’s WEBSITE

  - Author: Sherrie Coleman -     

Joel’s work is available to view and purchase at the Joel Coleman Gallery which is in Manly, Sydney, Australia.


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