ESL etc.

Global Issues and Activism in English Language Teaching

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Chris Jordan: Consumerism’s Portraitist

February 23rd, 2008 by Dave · No Comments

Photographer Chris Jordan has three series of striking pictures, each of which could stimulate students to think about a variety of issues.

Each picture in Running The Numbers depicts an America statistic by showing an extremely high number of a mundane item. For example, there is a picture of 1,000,000 plastic cups (the number used on airlines every 6 hours) and a picture of 32,000 barbie dolls (the number of elective breast augmentations per month). This series could be used for activites dealing with consumption, body image, the environment or other global issues.


Intolerable Beauty (from which this picture was taken) shows images of waste from America.

“The pervasiveness of our consumerism holds a seductive kind of mob mentality. Collectively we are committing a vast and unsustainable act of taking, but we each are anonymous and no one is in charge or accountable for the consequences. I fear that in this process we are doing irreparable harm to our planet and to our individual spirits.

As an American consumer myself, I am in no position to finger wag; but I do know that when we reflect on a difficult question in the absence of an answer, our attention can turn inward, and in that space may exist the possibility of some evolution of thought or action.”

In Katrina’s Wake shows post-flood pictures, and could be used for activities on natural disasters and global warming or poverty and racism.

Books are available for both the post-Katrina set and Intolerable Beauty, and one is on the way for Running the Numbers. In addition, an educational DVD is in the works. I find that visual stuff works really well as a writing or discussion prompt. It is faster and often more evocative than reading. Despite the tragic content of Jordan’s pictures, they are powerfully beautiful and I suspect students would find them engaging.

Thanks Khalid

Tags: blog · consumerism · global issues activities · health · pictures · the environment

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