As of late humanity has become more and more aware of the fact that there really is no planet or even plan B — the Earth is our only habitat, at least for the time being, and the way we treat it as a whole is at times appalling and, sadly, irreversible. The omnipresence of single-use plastic is a problem of gigantic proportions that must be addressed as a matter of urgency. Recycling, of course, helps and it has created millions and millions of objects that have once been something else, or, in other words, made from recycled materials that otherwise would have required brand new plastic production. There are two main strands of why the material is problematic — first of all, the production itself requires huge amounts of energy and petrol, and second, what happens to the objects once they have been used is a huge concern. More often than not they end up in landfill decomposing for thousands of years or in the ocean, suffocating marine life.
Barry Rosenthal brings our attention to this pertinent issue. His pictures of colourful plastic packaging of crisps, chocolate and other snacks are reminiscent of Andreas Gursky — a startling number of objects creating a pool of words and colours to a dizzying effect. They are found man-made objects that the artist has collected and photographed. Sometimes modified either via composition or collage techniques, they acquire sculptural qualities and make the viewer ponder over the fact that all of this junk is in our oceans, on our beaches, in our communal home.
Ecologists argue that recycling is only part of the solution, but unless we stop producing and consuming as much plastic as we currently do, the situation will not change and it would be the equivalent of sweeping our rubbish under the rug. There is something worryingly beautiful and at times eery about Rosenthal’s project — it beautifies rubbish that shouldn’t be there in the first place but it also raises awareness about its very existence through startling imagery. Some objects are arranged by colour — white, for example — and others are combined depending on the object itself — a typology of protective gloves.
Fortunately, not all is lost and there are some fantastic achievements that would not have been possible without current technology. Scientists are, for example, developing bacteria that feeds off plastic and carbon dioxide — essentially a tree on steroids. There has also been a great and mostly successful movement in developed countries to get rid of plastic straws or beer can holders and replace them with paper or metal equivalents. Plenty remains to be done and we can only hope that the world will move in the right direction, but we can be hopeful when people like Barry Rosenthal exist who are energetic and passionate about these important issues.
— foreword by Zak R. Dimitrov
I build awareness of plastic pollution in the world's oceans with the public through my project Found in Nature. The project has changed my world into a traveling artist and lecturer.