As I walk along the beach in Carlsbad, California, I collect and document litter that has washed up with the waves, was swept out with the run-off, or has been left behind by beach-goers. Many aspects of modern culture are represented in the detritus that I photograph with my iPhone.
Single-use water bottles, plastic bags, balloons, toys, cell phones, cleaning products, food packaging, and much more are curated by the tides. Each time I snap a photo of a piece of trash, I notice the contrast between the man-made refuse and the beauty of the shore, the crashing waves, and the ever-changing sky out toward the horizon. I enjoy the challenge of making something out of place look visually pleasing as I seek to tell the story of our polluted oceans.
The photos and objects in my exhibit represent a fraction of the overwhelming amount of litter that I have picked up, but even on the days that I have trouble carrying my haul off of the beach, I don’t get discouraged. Instead, I find hope in the inspiration provided by others. My hope comes from knowing that I am part of a worldwide community of people who care about the environment and are taking action to make a difference, and I am hopeful even when wondering what might be on the horizon.
Many years ago, my sister and her husband helped me become aware of the problem of plastic pollution through their art. Judith and Richard Lang collect plastic refuse from Kehoe Beach in Marin County, California and turn their finds into beautiful works that have been on view in museums and galleries around the world. A documentary film called One Plastic Beach was even made to tell their story.
Influenced by their passionate dedication to their life’s work as artists and environmentalists, I have become a conscientious consumer and am more careful about what I recycle—but I never considered actually photographing beach trash until a friend who shares my passion for iPhoneography tagged me in a Tweet about Litterati, a crowd-sourced Instagram movement founded by writer and entrepreneur Jeff Kirschner.
I was pleased to discover that thousands upon thousands of pieces of litter had been photographed and uploaded into the Digital Landfill for documentation before being properly discarded by the Litterati community. I immediately joined in and started photographing and posting pictures of the litter that I pick up during my regular walks at the beach. I have also become interested in the idea that photos published through Instagram can move people to take action. Since discovering Litterati, I have found others who have started environmental movements through social media, including #2minutebeachclean created by Martin Dorey of Cornwall, England and #take3forthesea founded in Australia by Tim Silverwood.
For more information and to learn how you can participate, visit: