My passion for photography started when I was very young, around age twelve. I convinced some friends to join me on a photography course, and we learnt how to process black and white film. We use to take pictures of each other. It was so much fun, and that is where it all began.
I kept shooting and even in my late teens when everyone else was going out, I was always in the darkroom, developing and processing film. It was my true passion. I was deeply inspired by the work of Sarah Moon, Ansel Adams, Josef Sudeck and Sally Mann. I would spend hours in bookshops, staring at their work in books. The work really touched me, especially Josef’s. It triggered intense emotions; it’s beautiful, yet fragile. He photographs ordinary objects, which change over time. I still remember how I felt looking at that work many years ago. Now. I’m making still lives myself, and it’s almost a meditation when I’m developing compositions or working on sculptures. I’m always hunting for that deeply personal connection.
Plastic Ocean started with my dog. I moved to Cape Town with my family six years ago. I would walk my dog on the beach and began to find all this plastic rubbish washing up on the beach. I started to photograph it, almost as a witness at first. It shocked me. The sheer volume of it was overwhelming. Everyday it was different, and it started to haunt me. I felt driven to do something with this material, to show my friends and the world what was happening.
Personally, I have always been interested in and cared for the environment, but it was never part of my work until now. The core message of the project is sharing my personal experience, how this has shaped and informed my life and increased my awareness of this issue. The change didn’t come overnight. It started with the plastic on the beach, and then it seeps into your everyday life. It forces you to be more conscious about what you buy, avoiding things wrapped in excessive plastic. The project is a manifestation of my journey and the impact it has had on me. I know it’s not easy to change, but I hope the work encourages people to do what they can. If we all contribute, then we can start to make serious changes.
My approach to the project was to play with tension. I seduce the viewer with interesting shapes and a delicate colour palette, and when I’ve captured their attention, the images unravel, and you start to recognise the objects as trash, waste or garbage. You can see by the wear of the objects that many of them have been in the ocean for years before they land on the beach. I want the work to be accessible and people to have prints in their home to serve as a reminder. They are beautiful; yet carry a more significant message.
I can honestly say this project has changed my life. I am now planning to travel with the project and make work all over the world. I am developing an interactive workshop where I can work with communities around the globe, arranging beach pickups and creating a space where we can make art together. I want to bring people into the work; I believe being part of it allows them to build a personal connection with the issues.
I’m also interested in preserving the sculptures I create. They usually are 1-minute sculptures that often collapse shortly after the image is made, but I’m experimenting with making them more permanent.
The response to the work has been incredible. It’s generating lots of conversation; people are sharing tips and pro-active actions they are taking, everything from pickups to how they are educating their kids about plastic. It’s been a wonderful experience. The project feels so alive; I hope a change is coming.