Raising awareness of plastic marine debris through art

Published: Thursday 5th January 2017 by Courtney Farrow

Comments (0)

To celebrate Hull as the UK City of Culture 2017, The Deep will host a series of marine-themed art installations throughout the year.

The chosen artists will showcase the diversity of marine wildlife in our oceans and their stunning habitats, as well as the threats that they face.

Throughout January and February, the work of international award-winning photographer Mandy Barker will be exhibited in Hull’s submarium. Her aim is to raise awareness about marine debris and plastic pollution that impacts our world’s oceans and its inhabitants.

“I created these images to depict the global plastic problem, I wanted my images to have an impact,” Mandy explains.

The collection consists of 21 pictures, 10 of which are from her first series Indefinite, which involve pieces of plastic collected from the shore at Spurn Point in 2010. The other images are picked from her two SOUP series. The first shows plastic that was mainly found around the UK, whilst the other images display debris from 30 different beaches in Hong Kong.

“I’m from Hull originally and my parents would take me to Spurn on days out. I loved collecting shells, driftwood and other natural things from the beach,” says Mandy. “But, slowly, I began to see more and more debris on the shores.”

A defining moment in her life was when she saw an old car, half submerged in the water at Spurn. She’s also spotted a refrigerator and freezer on the coastline:

“It made me wonder how it got there, and if other people, who perhaps didn’t live by the sea, realised that this was happening.”

The final piece is called Penalty and was created at the time of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. A collaboration by people from all over the world, the piece was created using old footballs that had washed up on shores across the globe.

Sending out messages on social media and speaking with marine debris organisations, Mandy needed around 30 footballs to create a good image: “It really took off and I ended up receiving 769 footballs. I was taken aback!”

Mandy was sent footballs and other sports balls from all over, including Africa, Brazil, Alaska, Australia, Germany and even Guadeloupe.

One coastguard in west Scotland sent her 20-30 balls a day: “In the end, he collected 228 footballs for me,” she recalls.

But, we ask, how did she manage to store all of this debris? “It was a bit of a problem, but somehow I managed.”

And her work certainly paid off: “The piece definitely reached its intended global audience. I was actually interviewed for CNN at the time that the World Cup was on.”

Another project that Mandy is excited about, to be exhibited elsewhere, highlights the issue of microplankton eating plastic particles.

“Microplankton are at the bottom of the food chain, meaning that fish, birds and eventually humans will be ingesting the plastic. It’s a real concern,” says Mandy.

“On top of this, the plastic absorbs all of the nasty chemicals, fertilisers and oils that are spilled into the ocean,” she warns. “This, in turn, means that harmful substances will be reabsorbed further up the food chain. It could lead to reproductive problems across many different species.”

So how can we, as consumers, make a difference and reduce our plastic waste?

“It’s all about doing things in small steps,” Mandy advises. “If everyone in the world made a small change, together we would be able to make a huge difference.”

The skilled photographer admits that plastic is brilliant for lots of things, but she is completely against single-use items, such as water bottles, plastic bags, coffee cups, straws and excessive food packaging:

“These things aren’t necessary and some of them will only be used for a short amount of time, sometimes even seconds.”

“As consumers, we have a lot of power and when we do our shopping we have a lot of choices.”

“Do you really need to put your loose fruit in a separate plastic bag? Could you invest in a metal water bottle instead of buying a new plastic one? Do you have time to sit inside the coffee shop and drink out of a pot mug rather than take it away?”

“It’s all about breaking old habits and making new, conscious choices.”

You can see Mandy Barker’s incredible work at The Deep during January and February 2017. You can also get a feel for her style at www.mandy-barker.com.

Read more localnational and international news on HEY Today

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter  

Published: Thursday 5th January 2017 by Courtney Farrow

Comments (0)

Local business search