Laura Cunningham - Bottled
We’ve featured Laura’s work before, and one of the things we love about our corner of the Internet is being able to share creative journeys as they develop. As soon as we saw this series, we reached out via Instagram. We’re so pleased Laura has decided to share her work with us again.
Here, Laura Cunningham tells us about her series ‘Bottled’ in her own words…
I've always been interested in creating photographs that highlight issues in our natural environment. Growing up in the same place for over 20 years and watching the landscape change from largely natural countryside to a busy urban area that has become more and more polluted with our waste, was the initial inspiration behind wanting to raise awareness of these issues. The use of plastic is a growing issue in our everyday lives and I really wanted to create a body of work that explored this issue closer.
The series embodies the idea of plastic suffocating the natural world. The high consumption and waste of the material is killing the natural environment with half a trillion plastic bottles being predicted to be sold in 2020. I wanted to capture the effect this rate of plastic consumption is having on nature. I was also really inspired by still life paintings especially the work of artists like Ambrosius Bosschaert. I explored similar compositions in my own work for example the rules of 3, the vase used in many still life paintings became the plastic bottle in my photos, the flowers protruding from the vase became the natural flowers, weeds and shrubs inside the bottles and the landscape scenes often depicted in these types of paintings became the natural backdrops in my work. I used a number of different natural elements in the bottles, from flowers to weeds, bark to grass. I didn't want to purely focus on the conventionally beautiful parts of nature, but draw attention to all of it. I've looked at the issue of plastic in a number of different projects.
'Plastic World' for example was a project largely inspired by the amount of plastic I was seeing dumped in areas around where I live. The consumption and waste of the material is becoming an ever growing problem and trying to raise awareness of the issues surrounding it, i believe is really important.
I used a pentax 645z to shoot these photos. I was studying at university when I began shooting this work but shot this particular series at home. I needed a camera that was portable but also going to produce a good quality image. I also wanted to really consider every inch of my project in relation to the environmental theme. Digital photography upon research felt a lot cleaner compared to film where I'd be using and disposing of chemicals in the process of printing my images.
I believe photography can be an incredibly powerful tool in activism. Presenting imagery to an audience confronting these issues can really encourage people to think about how they themselves can make a difference.
I believe the key to powerful imagery and the most successful photos are the ones that make the audience think about its subject even after they are viewing the work. In the moment of viewing an image, an article, a news report etc, we can be shown information and images that present us with an issue that we identify with but can forget about when we're no longer actively seeing or hearing about it. Creating imagery that encourages people to think how they as an individual can help towards things like reducing waste and cutting down on the amount of plastic being consumed and thrown out even after viewing the image, I believe is one of the powerful ways to create change.
Documenting environmental issues and creating images that talk about a particular issue, in this case plastic, definitely impacts how I consume and try and reduce my plastic waste. There is still a lot more to be done, but when you spend time around the facts and figures that accompany this type of work, you definitely want to make changes to try and help in some way.
I really want to continue to create images around this subject as I believe we are becoming more and more aware of a need for change however there is still so much that needs to be done around this issue. I would like to expand this series but also look at other ways to incorporate plastic and other environmental issues into my work to try and create images that do encourage its audience to really think about these issues and how we all can help the natural environment.