Mandy Barker - Hong Kong Soup (湯)

Mandy Barker

Mandy Barker is an international, award-winning photographer and her work involving marine plastic debris has received global recognition. Her series SOUP has been published in over 20 countries including TIME Magazine USA, The Guardian Eyewitness, GEO, CNN, and The Explorers Journal. She has exhibited internationally and her work is currently touring the United States as part of exhibition Gyre: The Plastic Ocean, which began in 2013 at The Anchorage Museum, Alaska.

In 2012 Barker was awarded The Royal Photographic Society’s Environmental Bursary enabling her to join scientists aboard a Plastic Research Expedition sailing from Japan to Hawaii through the Tsunami Debris Field in the Pacific Ocean. This opportunity allowed her to create the series SHOAL, enabling her to see debris at source and providing a solid foundation for her ongoing work.

Barker speaks internationally about her work and in November 2013 was invited to speak at the Plastic Free Seas Youth Conference in Hong Kong. She has contributed to articles for CNN International concerning the relationship between the arts and the environment, and in the United States her work was featured on TIME Magazine’s Lightbox for Earth Day 2012. She has been nominated twice for the prestigious Prix Pictet award, the world’s leading photographic award in sustainability, and in 2014 received an award from Lens Culture for her series PENALTY, which involved the collection of 769 marine debris soccer balls from around the World. She was also selected as a finalist in the Critical Mass Top 50 of 2014.

Barker’s work aims to engage with, and stimulate, an emotional response in the viewer by combining a contradiction between initial aesthetic attraction and the subsequent message of awareness. The impact of oceanic waste is an area Barker is committed to pursuing through innovative visual interpretation, hoping it will ultimately lead to positive action in tackling this increasing global environmental problem.

Mandy Barker
Project Statement

Hong Kong Soup (湯)

Hong Kong Soup (湯) is a recently completed, long term project depicting waste plastic collected from over thirty different beaches in Hong Kong. Over 1,826 tonnes of municipal waste plastic per day goes into landfill in Hong Kong, and each image reflects the diverse range of these products by highlighting recovered objects or groups having escaped recycling or landfill.

The images directly relate to the traditions, events, nature, and culture of Hong Kong, with the intention to connect with its people providing awareness about the crisis facing effective waste management. Objects include products from manufacturing, retail, household and medical waste alongside agricultural, shipping and fishing related debris.

Soup (湯) is a description given to plastic debris suspended in the sea and in this case with reference to the waste crisis in Hong Kong. The series aims to engage with the public by stimulating an emotional response, combining a contradiction between initial aesthetic attraction with an awareness to encourage social responsibility.

All debris in this series has been collected over the past three years (since 2012). Photographed in Hong Kong and composed in the United Kingdom, it represents a wide-ranging collection of waste that has existed for varying amounts of time on Hong Kong’s own doorstep.

Statistic – The Environmental Protection Department, Hong Kong. Waste Statistics for 2012.