December 13, 2008

Running the Numbers

It's an odd statement coming from a visual artist, but I've never fully embraced the notion that a picture is worth a thousand words because of the inherent assumption that words somehow don't matter as much. Words are important. So are numbers, argues photographer Chris Jordan.

Jordan's series Running the Numbers "visually examines these vast and bizarre measures of our society, in large intricately detailed prints assembled from thousands of smaller photographs. Employing themes such as the near versus the far, and the one versus the many, I hope to raise some questions about the roles and responsibililties of the individual in a society that is increasingly enormous, incomprehensible, and overwhelming." Some images from the series are shown below. To really appreciate the series and individual concepts illustrated, go to his website to view the zoomed in details of each. He's also done some fascinating work around landfills and the aftermath of hurricane Katrina.

Oil Barrels, 2008
Depicts 28,000 42-gallon barrels, the amount of of oil consumed in the United States every two minutes (equal to the flow of a medium-sized river).

Light Bulbs, 2008
Depicts 320,000 light bulbs, equal to the number of kilowatt hours of electricity wasted in the United States every minute from inefficient residential electricity usage (inefficient wiring, computers in sleep mode, etc.).

Barbie Dolls, 2008
Depicts 32,000 Barbies, equal to the number of elective breast augmentation surgeries performed monthly in the US in 2006.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that my Chris Jordan discovery came to me by way of a very witty, intelligent and intellectually curious coworker who also happens to be a bit of a stats junkie. If, like me, you're a creative person who has to take on "outside" work to supplement your existence, I hope you're as fortunate as I am to find intellectual stimulation and friendship in the arrangement.

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