When we started this was a purely photographic project, it was to tour with a slideshow and talk to as many people as physically possible. To try and bring to the attention of as many non ocean users as possible, the spectre of marine litter and how it is affecting even the remotest of coastlines.
To do this we use the medium of adventure and surfing, it’s the hook to get everyone to really care about our environment, because if you don’t care about something, why would you try and protect it.
We want to reach more people though, and that is why we are producing a series of films, on our own, and in colabs with as many different people as possible.
The Story So Far With TIM NUNN
You’ve been shooting plastic for years now, what’s happening with the plastic project?
The Plastic Project has been through several metamorphosis, it started purely as a way of me sharing what I was seeing when i went to remote places on surf trips, and then it grew. I look back as little as five or six years ago and I can remember conversations with people who are now at the forefront of fighting plastic who back then saw it as important, but very much a side show in the fight against pollution. So things have changed rapidly, and so has the project.
The film and Books seemed to have followed that?
Yes definitely, two years ago I was inspired by films like Chasing Ice and wanted to make your standard Netlix style documentary of how everything was going to shit, but I ran into several problems.
The first was I didn’t have the resources, and the second was that as awareness of plastic in the oceans grew, so several very good big budget documentaries followed, and I would have been replicating on a small budget. The third issue was, whilst I certainly had some fresh angles on the subject, the actual research on plastic was changing so quickly that I’d do an interview with a scientist, and within a month in some cases it would have been superseded, and you can see this in some films already. So I wanted to take a unique angle, from a photographic point of view, which no one else had.
But photographing trash is not a new idea?
No absolutely not, I’ve come across people who have been shooting for years outside of the surfing world who I had no idea about, there is an incredible guy in Chile called Marco Damerico who had been shooting the rise of plastic in the southern ocean for three decades before he sadly passed away. Closer to home photographer Andy Hughes who has been clued into this long before I have and has pioneered environmental photography in the littoral zone and beyond, and there are twenty or thirty others I could mention. The difference is though, surf photographers have shot it by accident, and because the nature of surfing takes us to ultra remote places for our work, and back to the same spots over and over again, we have amassed, unwittingly, an archive of imagery, which although unscientific has recorded the rise of plastic pollution.
So the basis of the film has become plastic pollution through the eyes of surf photography, I’m intrigued to see where this adds to the overall pressure/debate though, beyond showing us how bad it has all got again?
I have struggled with that, and I looked at what I had done in the past, and what what I am doing now, and yes we’ve created a great educational resource and talked to kids etc. but what can we add on a global scale. The answer is we have, not only a fragmented document of global plastic pollution, but we have a unique timeline, and what is more for a couple of very important beaches, we have a timeline over several decades. Now that alone may not be that interesting, but what is in those images is.
OK so what impact does this have on a saturated world of plastic information?
I think what the film really delivers is that we have arrived incredibly late to the party. Once I started looking at all of this evidence, it became obvious that the issue is getting worse, but it also revealed that two decades ago the situation was desperate, that is when we should of acted.
So all of these government plans, and companies phasing out or switching to recycled plastic over a decade or more, simply is not fast enough. We’re dealing with a legacy of rubbish, not one that has happened in the last couple of years but one which has been present and grown over four decades. We are past a tipping point and playing catchup. Beach cleans and ocean cleanup plans are all essential, but we got to stop this at the source, and hopefully the evidence we have amassed will make people realise that everything we do needs to be accelerated. We may even be too late.
What about the surfing angle, how does that all fit in?
I’ve always said from the word go that no other group of humans spend as much time actually immersed in the ocean, collectively we put in millions of hours of time in the sea. It’s why there are so many surfing environmentalists, and likewise photographers we notice whats going on and as the film shows we shoot it, some of it never sees the light of day but there is this massive archive of our changing ocean environment out there. Whilst we I understand that the general publics perception of surfing is one of a shallow experience, the people who are doing it are undoubtedly more intelligent than we are given credit for. It’s also I think, if I can say this, it’s a very personal film and I think from a photographers perspective in general.
So what’s the plan?
The film is almost finished, we are going to take it on the road in May along with a photographic exhibition, which is every bit as important. Although I have made a film, the photographic element and the slideshows are as important as the movie its self. There will be a full trailer at the beginning of April, and it’s going to be a pretty eye opening movie I hope.