17 Oct

MIDWAY JOURNEY II – Bottle Caps

John Klavitter, the acting manager of the Midway Atoll National Wildlife refuge has spent almost 9 years on Midway Island. In this short film, he not only takes a closer look inside one of the dead chicks, but also shares his personal views and connection to the Albatross.

Camera and editing: Jan Vozenilek
Sound: Joe Schweers
Music: Christen Lien

10 Jul

MIDWAY JOURNEY II – Junk Food II : Our First Dissection

Stomach contents of another dead baby albatross are revealed as Chris Jordan cuts the bird open with scissors from a dissection kit provided by US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Filmed by Victoria Sloan Jordan
Music by Christen Lien

06 Jul

MIDWAY JOURNEY II – Junk Food

Brace yourself for this short video of the horrifying contents of the stomach of a dead baby albatross on Midway Atoll.

The island will soon be covered with tens of thousands of carcasses like this, as the plastic-filled birds die from starvation, dehydration, and choking.

Video by: Jan Vozenilek

Music by: Christen Lien

04 Jul

MIDWAY JOURNEY II – First Impressions

Dear Friends and Followers of Midway Journey,

Thank you for your patience as we have taken a few days to find our bearings and connect to the Internet.  We are astonished and delighted to find ourselves back here again on remote Midway Atoll.  The tiny island is now covered with several hundred thousand fledgling albatrosses inhabiting the paths, walkways, roads, meadows, and even the runway.

It’s hard to describe the complex mixture of feelings that arise in the presence of this incredible abundance of wildlife, especially as we are keenly aware of the devastating effects of the plastic that fills the stomachs of a huge percentage of these young birds.  One purpose of this leg of our journey is to witness their annual die-off, which will result in thousands of plastic-filled carcasses covering the ground as we saw when we visited here last September.

We’ve already begun to acquaint ourselves with the new stories that this chapter of our journey holds, and we look forward to sharing them with you over the next couple of weeks.  Thank you for joining us in this process.

With warm regards from Midway Atoll,

Chris, Victoria, Jan & Joe

Video by: Jan Vozenilek    Vimeo.com/JanVozenilek

Music by: Christen Lien  itsnotaviolin.com

See the area where this video was filmed on BlooSee’s satellite imagery.

24 Sep

Trailside encounter

Early one morning I was out photographing along a meadow trail strewn with decaying albatross carcasses. The sun had just risen, and my camera was set up to photograph the exposed body cavity of an albatross chick filled with multicolored plastic.

I heard the sound of a motor approaching, and looked up to see one of the carts that the Thai maintenance crew uses to get around the island. The cart pulled up and stopped right next to me, and a Thai man stepped out. He was wearing canvas work coveralls and looked to be about fifty.

He smiled and made a slight bow, and after a short pause he pronounced two Thai syllables: “Kham… Wang.” Not sure what he meant, I repeated “Kham, Wang.” As I did that, he pointed to himself, and I realized he was telling me his name. So I pointed to myself and slowly said “Chris Jordan.” He repeated my name in a strong Thai accent: “Chizz Johdann.” I said “Kham Wang” again, trying to match his pronunciation of the nasal syllables.

Then Kham Wang noticed my camera, mounted on its tripod and aimed at the ground. He looked down and saw what I was photographing, and he gestured toward the bird with his hand. “Bebe,” he said in a quiet voice. “Bebe.”

It took me a moment to understand, and then I nodded and replied: “baby.”

We both stood there for a moment, looking down at the dead bird at our feet. Then Kham Wang looked back at me, and placed his hand on my shoulder, and said “Chizz Johdann.” I put my hand on his shoulder and gave my best “Kham Wang” once again. And with gentle smile, Kham Wang got back in his cart and drove on down the path.

~cj

22 Sep

A Glimpse of the Tragedy

Until now, we have not shown the carcasses of the albatross chicks that Chris Jordan has been photographing, stuffed with plastic beyond belief.

So much plastic, and in such bizarre combinations of objects and colors, that we recently posted a video in which Chris explains his photography ethic: no plastic is added to any photo, and the plastic is never rearranged.

It will be more than a month before Chris’ photos are processed and released. This morning Chris decided to offer a glimpse of what these carcasses look like.

18 Sep

Reflections from Midway

Dear friends,

I thought I’d check in at the halfway point of our trip. First of all, greetings! I wish I could snap my fingers and you would all appear here with us.

In terms of my photographic work so far, my primary feeling is one of anxious urgency. What I am seeing through my viewfinder is amazing—everything I had hoped for, and much more. The albatross carcasses are astonishingly beautiful and visually complex, each one offering a slightly different view into the intricate architecture of these magnificent creatures. The pieces of plastic in their body cavities—cigarette lighters, bottle caps, pens, toothbrushes, and lots of other brightly colored plastic chunks, juxtapose like colors in a painting against the rich palettes of neutral tones in the birds’ decaying feathers and bones. Aesthetically, I hope that the images I am capturing will carry the same kind of uncomfortable desolate beauty that my other work has explored.

The part that makes me anxious is that I have no idea what is actually being recorded on my memory cards. I feel clumsy working with my new digital camera system. My hands lack fluency with the knobs and buttons; the menus don’t come naturally to my thought process; and I don’t know if I am getting the fine focus and the exposures correct. What I do know is that this equipment will produce outrageously high quality images if I get the settings right. Fingers crossed!

A couple of days ago I discovered a huge pile of several thousand albatross carcasses sequestered in a remote meadow. We figured they must be all the birds that had died around the living quarters, moved to a place where they can decompose naturally, away from the island village. The pile is a couple of feet deep and about twenty feet square, with thousands upon thousands of wings, skulls, rib cages, feathers, and bones, all mixed and permeated with a shocking amount of plastic junk.

It is a horrific and moving sight, evocative of images of mass graves from wars, more visually intense than anything I had expected to find here. I devoted a whole day to photographing the pile, and plan to return several times more. In terms of experiencing the depth of the tragedy we came here to witness, this is the heart of darkness of our journey. I feel overwhelmed and numbed by it, and I also sense that if there is any kind of breakthrough in our process to be attained on this trip, this pile represents the portal through which we must pass.

This Monday, September 21st, marks the autumnal equinox, a middle place in our yearly circuit around the sun, halfway between the days of longest darkness and longest light. On that day, at noon Midway time (four hours earlier than Pacific time), our team will return to the pile. Our shared intention is to connect as deeply as we can with the profound story that these birds have to tell. Please remember us on that day, and hold our process in your thoughts, as we will hold you in ours.

~cj

18 Sep

Photography Ethics

The amount of plastic objects that we are finding inside of the albatross carcasses that cover Midway Island is so shocking that it might be hard to believe.

As soon as we landed on the island, we all agreed to adhere to a strict work ethic that is summarized in these three rules:

  • No plastic added.  We never add any additional plastic to any images or compositions. What you’ll see it what was there.
  • No rearranging. The plastic contents of the rib cages are not rearranged in any way.
  • OK to remove. We allow ourselves to occasionally remove from the frame a few objects that might obstruct the view, such as twigs, feathers, grass leaves, or pieces of plastic from the top layer.

Chris Jordan explains these rules in more detail in the following video.