Artist Uses Trash to Create Beautiful Images That Should Disgust You

“Statistics can feel abstract and anesthetizing, making it difficult to connect with and make meaning of 3.6 million SUV sales in one year, for example, or 2.3 million americans in prison, or 32,000 breast augmentation surgeries in the US every month. depicts 32,000 barbies, equal to the number of elective breast augmentation surgeries performed monthly in the US in 2006.” — Chris Jordan


Photographic artist Chris Jordan examines American consumerist culture through the lens of statistics. He captures pictures of ordinary objects — like bottle caps or plastic bags — and turns them into breathtaking pieces of art by digitally rearranging them to create a larger central image.  For example, in the shot above, Chris is pictured next to an image depicting 8 million toothpicks (equal to the number of trees harvested in the US every month to make paper for mail order catalogs).

The number of objects in each work isn’t trivial. Chris chooses a specific number, based on present day statistics on consumption: For example, he uses 15 million sheets of paper to show viewers what five minutes of paper use actually looks like, or 106,000 aluminum cans to show how much is wasted with 30 seconds of soda consumption. Chris’s hope is that depicting these nearly unbelievable statistics through art might have a different impact on his viewers than the raw numbers alone.

“Seen from a distance, the images are like something else, maybe totally boring pieces of modern art. On closer view, the visitor has an almost unpleasant experience with the artwork. It’s almost a magic trick; inviting people to a conversation that they didn’t want to have in the first place.”

Here are a few examples of Chris’s amazing work:


Depicts 32,000 barbies, equal to the number of elective breast augmentation surgeries performed, monthly in the US in 2006.


Depicts 400,000 plastic bottle caps, equal to the average number of plastic bottles consumed in the United States every minute.

Depicts 426,000 cell phones, equal to the number of cell phones retired in the US every day.

All images by photographer Chris Jordan. See more of his amazing work here.