Have you ever seen something truly beautiful but also super sad at the same time? That's what Mandy Barker's art is like.
The artist takes sea trash to create stunning sculptures that she photographs against a stark black backdrop. The result is ethereal. Some of the pieces look like galaxies or blooming bouquets or a shoal of sea creatures.
But it's also a depressing reminder of how much garbage exists in our ocean and on our beaches.
NatGeo reported that Barker began these projects after she noticed beachgoers weren't bothered by all the garbage around them. It seemed like they didn't think it was out of place at all. So she decided to put trash on display in a way that no one could ignore.
As you look closer to examine the beauty of her work, you're struck by what it's made from — and it's sickening. She uses garbage she finds on the beach and even in the bellies of dead seabirds to create her work.
Here you can see all the pieces she had to work with from one dead albatross chick.
Check out more of her heartbreaking work below:
These balls of fishing line could be jellyfish if you're standing farther away. It's easy to see why animals like sea turtles, who eat jellyfish, get confused and entangled by nests like these.
These silk flowers came from the beaches of Hong Kong. Barker writes of the assortment on her website: "[These fake flowers] would not exist at the same flowering time in nature [and] should not be found in the ocean."
Mandy Barker named this piece after the amount of time it would take for a glove to decompose. And she found so many of them.
"WHERE ... am I going?"
As young children we are taught not to let our balloons go outside because they could hurt sea animals. Some people clearly didn't get the memo. (Or these were balloons thrown away and yet still dumped in the ocean like so much other garbage.)
Barker had enough bath toys to create this monochromatic piece with plastic turtles bubbling up.
"EVERY ... snowflake is different"
Sadly, every piece of trash in this piece is also different.
As she states in her caption, Barker hopes this all-action-figure piece collected in Hong Kong will inspire those who see it to "TRANSFORM habit and behavior regarding the waste issue in Hong Kong, with the emphasis being to take ACTION."
For her "PENALTY" collection, Barker collected soccer balls to create these celestial images. This one is made up of 633 balls and pieces of balls found in Europe alone. This collection also contains "United Kingdom," with 597 balls from the U.K.; "One Man," which features 228 balls collected by only one person in Scotland; and "The World" made up of 769 balls from around the globe.
You can see below how far-reaching this type of debris can be.
"Lost at Sea"
Barker's image contains so many colors and shapes and sizes — she truly has a plethora of plastic to choose from.
Disposable lighters shouldn't be disposed into the sea.
On her website, Barker made it clear she wants these pieces to teach people something. She wrote:
"The impact of oceanic waste is an area I have documented for more than eight years and am committed to pursuing through visual interpretation. ... I am hoping it will ultimately lead to positive action in tackling this increasing environmental problem, which is of current global concern."
Her striking images certainly do make an impact on the viewer. And, with the ever-increasing plastic threat to our sea and its inhabitants, anything we can do to get people to stand up and take notice is worth a shot.
Barker is doing her part, and here's hoping one day she can photograph something besides ocean trash.