Sunday, December 7, 2008

I posted this site before, but here is another look. How can we reconcile beauty with destruction or the sins of excess? I don’t think Chris Jordan sets out to answer this question with his photographs, but they are, despite their disturbing subject matter and the issues he presents, beautiful. Jordan’s most recent collection, In Katrina’s Wake: Portraits of Loss from an Unnatural Disaster, offers over three dozen portraits of destruction and decay, each one harmonically composed, and many giving us striking glimpses of the intricate patterns and varieties of color that destruction and decay have shaped. It is as if he stumbled upon a city of strange found-object sculptures, or remnants of a film set. It is only because we know so well what Katrina truly was that we can draw the more disturbing conclusions from these pictures. Jordan says he is exploring Katrina as an “unnatural” disaster, likely connected to the global warming created by us. Initially, I saw the power of nature to destroy a city as if it were a tiny, inconsequential thing, but knowing Jordan’s intent, I was able to broaden my perspective and see a possible (probable?) cycle- these things as they were before, how they may have contributed to an imbalance in our environment, and the consequences of that imbalance. This is all the more powerful a work in that it follows Jordan’s previous projects looking at the sheer amount of material waste we create. In his previous two works, Intolerable Beauty and Running the Numbers, Jordan also used enticing and beautiful images to convey his message. Does this approach make it more tolerant to look directly at these things no one wants to see about ourselves? I think so.

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