Pam Longobardi amid a giant heap of fishing gear that she and volunteers from the Hawaii Wildlife Fund collected in 2008. David Rothstein, CC BY-ND
The Conversation, published February 14, 2023
I am obsessed with plastic objects. I harvest them from the ocean for the stories they hold and to mitigate their ability to harm. Each object has the potential to be a message from the sea – a poem, a cipher, a metaphor, a warning.
My work collecting and photographing ocean plastic and turning it into art began with an epiphany in 2005, on a far-flung beach at the southern tip of the Big Island of Hawaii. At the edge of a black lava beach pounded by surf, I encountered multitudes upon multitudes of plastic objects that the angry ocean was vomiting onto the rocky shore.
I could see that somehow, impossibly, humans had permeated the ocean with plastic waste. Its alien presence was so enormous that it had reached this most isolated point of land in the immense Pacific Ocean. I felt I was witness to an unspeakable crime against nature, and needed to document it and bring back evidence.
I began cleaning the beach, hauling away weathered and misshapen plastic debris – known and unknown objects, hidden parts of a world of things I had never seen before, and enormous whalelike colored entanglements of nets and ropes.
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