We covered Seattle-based photographer Chris Jordan’s Midway photography project back in 2009, and its impact was undeniable. Since that time, Jordan and a film crew have spent the past three years at the Midway Atoll (located halfway between North America and Asia) filming the albatross living and breeding. Why? Because they’ve been consuming our plastic pieces of pollution on account of being unable to realize the colorful chunks floating in the ocean aren’t something that provide them nutrition. Jordan first gained an interest and notoriety in photographing the albatross after finding a rotted and decayed body with a plastic center, where the bird’s stomach once was (pictures below). In middle school we learned that birds regurgitate food to their young because they’re unable to gather their own. Because of this, the albatross regurgitates plastic pieces to their chicks, filling them up with more plastic than food. Plastic as you can imagine harms the birds, puncturing their stomachs creating life-threatening injuries. Or simply leads to their death via dehydration, starvation, or poisonous toxicity. Didn’t think littering a little would hurt anyone? Wildlife biologist and manager at Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge John Klavitter claims that 20 tons of man-made debris ends up on Midway each year — of that, five tons gets fed to the albatross chicks. Through a successful Kickstarter campaign Jordan has been able to make a documentary about the albatross at the Midway Atoll, properly titled Midway. The documentary shows firsthand the environmental catastrophe that’s occurring to a very symbolic and influential bird. Midway Atoll is littered with corpses of baby albatrosses and plastic from the Pacific Garbage Patch (learn more about that via The Great Plastic Epidemic). Through Midway the team, as well as viewers, will witness the tragic life cycles the clumsy flying birds endure — acting as a multi-layered metaphor for our times while also granting access to the albatross in their natural habitat in stunning hi-res footage. Jordan has claimed that the at-times difficult to watch documentary is not an “environmental outcry” for the birds, but rather a different approach to viewing the way we live our lives. And hopefully the knowledge will create a fundamental shift in how we approach our world (like thinking twice before getting a plastic bag for our Trident gum). Click through the Gallery to view the photos that launched Chris Jordan’s career and interest in the albatross, and watch the documentary trailer below that. More information on the project and an opportunity to donate to their Kickstarter campaign can be found here.
Chris Jordan's treatise on the devastating impact of plastics