I have a hard time with large numbers — to picture some huge quantity and then imagine it multiplied by ten or 100 is difficult. I did a little experiment a while ago to get a better idea about the meaning of “a million times a million”, because “a trillion” was just too nebulous and vague.
That’s why I find the work of Chris Jordan so impressive (chris jordan photography). His latest series, Running the Numbers, displays our contemporary consumer culture from the point of view of statistical numbers. By showing us an image of 2.3 million folded prison uniforms for example, displayed in six vertical panels totaling 10 x 23 feet, he helps us to picture what it means that 2.3 million Americans were incarcerated in 2005. I’m a visually oriented person, and numbers can be abstract. The huge quantities of cell phones which are being retired every day in the US (426,000) or the amount of plastic bags being used every five seconds (60,000) become much more staggering when I see Chris’s photographs.
It would be great to see the exhibition. As the website states, the size of the original images is vital to their impact. So, if you live in New York or Pasadena, consider yourself lucky — you can see the real thing.