As humans, we’re naturally drawn to art. It’s an expression of creativity, a medium for entertainment and wonder, and a catalyst for inspiration. 

Whether it’s painting, animation, photography, or video, the best types of art often start conversations. They make you stop and think and can even put things into a much needed perspective. 

With the issues surrounding the environment today, artwork can even play a pivotal role in helping inspire people to take action and protect the planet. And that’s exactly what artist Chris Jordan hopes to do through his work.  

Who Is Chris Jordan? 

Source: Ted X

Chris Jordan is a Seattle-based artist, photographer, and filmmaker. His work draws upon inspiration from the environment, human habits, and the desire to create a more sustainable future. 

Jordan began his career in the field of photography. However, as he continued to capture the world around him, he saw a very flawed and damaging system. He quickly came to the realization that human consumption habits were impacting the world around us, including how we, ourselves, lived. 

Between 2003 and 2005, Jordan worked on an art piece titled Intolerable Beauty. This work helped him gain global recognition, not only as an artist, but as an environmental advocate as well. 

The Meaning Behind the Art

Image By: Chris Jordan

What started as capturing strangely beautiful photos led to something much more meaningful. Through photographing the consequences of human consumption habits, Jordan realized that his work could lead others to question their own habits and take individual action to help protect the planet. 

Running the Numbers is another eye-opening gallery Jordan has been adding to since 2006. In a 2008 Ted Talk, he explains how his art attempts to take “the raw language of data and translate them into a more universal, visual language that can be felt.” 

Jordan believes that if we can feel these issues more deeply, we will be able to ask the biggest, most important question: How do we change? Because changing our habits and behaviors starts with putting things into perspective.

Following the attention Intolerable Beauty and Running the Numbers received, Jordan decided to branch out and inspire others through filmmaking. 

Albatross and Its Significance

Image By: Chris Jordan

Upon learning about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, he was called to visit Midway Atoll, a small island in the middle of the man-made gyre. 

Jordan documented his eight visits to the island over the years. After nearly a decade-long process of filming, editing, and collaboration, Albatross was released. The documentary follows his experience on Midway Island, depicting the impacts of plastic pollution and human consumption habits on the environment.

While the film exhibits the grim and negative side of our consumption habits, Jordan developed a newfound perspective that few seem to consider. 

In an interview with UC Riverside, he states, “Up until my film, I was focused exclusively on the bad news about our culture, and there is darkness in that approach. The name of the island was a powerful lesson that way: midway. I found myself standing midway between the bad news, the horror of human destruction, and the good news, which is the incredible beauty of the living world.”

This more positive perspective on the beauty of the planet has translated into Jordan’s more recent work, as he continues to inspire others to protect their home. 

Flipping the Narrative 

With news and media primarily reporting on the negative aspects of the planet, Jordan argues that we need to consider a different approach. Through his more recent landscape photography and other work, Jordan believes that focusing on the beauty and grandeur of the natural world is necessary for shifting conversations. 

In his 2019 Ted Talk, he states how we need to stand in the middle between the problems and “bring in beauty as an essential ingredient in the healing and transformation of our world.” 

Jordan, like myself, believes that we should bring wonder and beauty to the forefront of the conversation. If we want to take steps to protect our planet, we should do so out of appreciation for its beauty, not out of a fearful obligation to do so. 

With the help of eye-opening and beautiful artwork like Chris Jordan’s, we can all feel a bit more inspired to take action and protect our home. 
If you want to stay up to date on Chris Jordan’s latest work and follow along with his artistic journey, visit his website here or follow him on Instagram @_chris__jordan_.