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Blueprinting Our Footprints

This week’s PhotoGenie theme is titled 'What You Don’t Sea'.

Through visual stories, our curators research the question “How has human activity been impacting our oceans?”

Future Relics is a series by Suzette Bousema, which can be seen as a direct reflection on how human activity has been impacting our oceans: our overuse of plastic has been resulting in a plastic soup.

Inspired by archeological approaches, Bousema considers plastic in the sea a future relic of today’s utensils. According to her, “the cyanotype technique was originally used to make actual size contact prints of plants, like seaweed”. Now, she uses this technique for plastic waste, to highlight the organic shapes molded by their extended presence in the sea. By reproducing every single object she could find, she tries to grasp the colossal sum of plastic that there is in the sea – she claims that while doing this project, she realized that there is plastic in the sea which goes all the way back to the 1950s. She states, “Plastic fades in colour and breaks up [into] tiny pieces, but will remain forever.”

By using cyanotype, a camera-free process discovered by John Herschel in 1842, Bousema focuses on the materiality of the objects and of the photograph itself, thus building on the idea of loose objects in the sea which deteriorate but still remain: these prints too will age and fade as time goes by, but the light will forever remain trapped in the sheet. Bousema’s cyan-blue prints also allude to the sea because of their colour and furthermore help us visualize what you might not immediately see in it (what you don’t sea). The fact that these representations are “abstractified”, adds even more to the mystery that is the bottom of the sea. The suspended position of the object in the center of the frame equally reminds us of the floating in water, and again, the inconspicuous shapes of the deteriorating plastic can also serve as a cue that these plastics are falling apart into small fragments and slowly metamorphosing with our waters.

In some prints, the shapes are not enough to distinguish what the object is anymore: they might as well be foam or bubbles created by waves and winds.

In other prints, it is as if the plastic becomes an unknown sea creature, which in itself can also be reminiscent of how plastic is entering the marine food chain, affecting existing species and visually creating new ones, as plastic almost becomes a new limb to some animals.

This series beautifully and tragically reveals how we are shaping and re-shaping our ecosystems forever, but also reminds us that there are ways to try and relieve the damage: Bousema has done it by cleaning the seas and making art out of it.

How will you do it?

According to the Plastic Soup Foundation, “Every minute, the equivalent of one full garbage truck of plastic trash is dumped in the sea. That is 1440 trucks per 24 hours and 8 BILLION kilos per year”.

In Amsterdam, you can make your canal tour sustainable by going on a @plasticwhale adventure – via this experience, you get to navigate through Amsterdam, while at the same time contributing to plastic-free waters by fishing for waste in the canals. Visit https://plasticwhale.com/ for more info!

About the artist: Suzette Bousema (1995) is a 4th-year photography student at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague, NL. She describes her work as a visualization of contemporary environmental topics, often using as a starting point planetary conditions and our place in it: she wishes to explore how humans interfere with nature and the way we relate to the earth on an individual level.

Check out Suzette Bousema’s full body of work at https://suzettebousema.nl and on Instagram @suzettepet

Let us know what you think in the comments! Our weekly themes always include three photo series by different photographers.

Are you interested and do you want to stay posted? Make sure to follow PhotoGenie on Instagram @wearecurators.

Written by Rital Bolieiro

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