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Artist Mandy Barker onboard Beluga II

Posted by Marcela Teran - 29th August 2017


This summer, the Greenpeace Beluga II set sail along Scotland’s coast to investigate and document the impact of plastic pollution in these areas.

We felt it was vital that both the wonder of the marine environments we would visit, and the indignation at the plastic pollution that we expected to find, could be perceived not only by those present in the expedition but also by the entire Greenpeace community and wider audiences, inspiring us to continue to take action together on this issue.

In addition to bringing on board fantastic documentary photographers and filmmakers, we invited artist Mandy Barker to collaborate with us and join the expedition. Mandy’s award-winning conceptual photography depicts ocean plastics in fascinating and attractive compositions that provide new depths to our understanding of the issue, and the need for immediate action to #EndOceanPlastics.

Read about Mandy’s experience of joining the Beluga II below, and how ‘WHERE? – No one wears a watch’, the first of a series of images she produced for the campaign, came about.

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Mandy Barker in the Hebrides, Scotland

I was walking through Glencoe when I got the call from the Greenpeace team to say that sailing conditions were perfect, and asking if I could join the Beluga expedition a day early.

I quickly made it up to Mallaig, and after a rapid change in the car park I was picked up by the RHIB transfer boat. Soon I was lucky enough to be speeding past the Isle of Skye, alongside dolphins, puffins, and guillemots, eagerly awaiting my first glimpse of the Beluga II, my home for the next four days.

Rounding the corner of the isle of Rùm did not disappoint – in a perfectly calm sea the Beluga II presented herself in all her glory, trawling for microplastics, which is why I was here.

Having an opportunity to visit the remote islands and inaccessible beaches of the Inner Hebrides, to collect and record marine plastic, continues my work and single obsession of the past 7 years. Photographing recovered plastic from worldwide locations to raise awareness of this critical issue, this time closer to home, was no less important.

On board the ship everyone had a mutual respect for each other. There is no hierarchy on a boat whatever your role, so the next day when my chore was to clean the toilets, I was more than happy to remember this.

I had no preconceptions about Greenpeace as an organisation and didn’t really know what to expect of the expedition. I was happy to see Greenpeace’s genuine concern for our environment that they seek to protect, manifested in the way they approached the journey and the daily activities.

Over 3 days I was dropped off at several remote locations, scrambling onto rocks and climbing over into other bays to discover new shorelines. The plastic I came across was overwhelming, from all kinds of single-use items; plastic bottles, food packaging, household objects, toys, and fishing related debris nets, and line. From major drinks manufacturers bottles found on coastlines all over the world, to a kettle, an umbrella, and even a toilet seat.

The image I created ‘WHERE? – No one wears a watch’ was inspired by the way the plastic presented itself on the beach in these secluded bays. The caption came about by way of coincidence, perfectly summed up by one of the residents on the island of Sanday, who commented that on these islands, “no one knows what day it is, and no one wears a watch”. Ironically, the very next day I found a child’s watch washed up on the shore. This caption not only reflects the human isolation of living on these islands, but if no one wears a watch, it must have ‘travelled’ from elsewhere. It is likely that the watch spent time in the sea – providing a metaphor of how long it takes plastic to break down – which can be up to hundreds of years – and also the time it is taking us to seriously address our over consumption of plastic and responsibility for its disposal.

I feel privileged to have been a part of this expedition, experiencing the remoteness of these stunning islands, but more importantly, this opportunity alongside Greenpeace has enabled me to reveal through my work the vast amount of plastic debris that unfortunately can be found at these unique beach locations to a wider audience.

Some of the objects I recovered and used in this image are listed here;

Ingredients include: Disney ‘Frozen’ watch, trainers, flip flop sole, fish sand mould, heel of a shoe, HP inkjet cartridge, Coca-Cola bottle, water bottles & caps, water bottle with Walker’s crisp bag inside, straw, plastic forks, plastic cups, yoghurt pot, comb, lighters, LEGO, golf ball, toy tennis racket, kettle, coat hanger, bicycle tyre, dog ball, floor mop head, toothbrushes, umbrella, bucket, nozzles, torch, plastic shell, reel, toilet fragrance holder, spade handle, half toolbox, medicine bottle, cup, print stamper, deep fat fryer lid, football, building blocks, toy doll, party popper, U-bend pipe, scouring brush, gun cartridges, Fairy Liquid bottle, plastic duck, knife handle, various wheels, dummy-soother, crisp bags, balloon & holder, various filters, flooring, fishing related debris; line, rope, buoy, net, tennis ball, blue bird,  vintage Esso oil container, handles, and part of a sign with ‘WARNING’ printed on it.

You can find out more about Mandy’s work here.

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