The series SHOAL reveals evidence of marine plastic debris collected during the Japanese Tsunami Debris Expedition in June 2012, which sailed across the tsunami debris field in the North Pacific Ocean. The work focuses on plastics collected and photographed from trawls and net samples at various points between Japan and Hawaii, and also from the tsunami affected shoreline in Fukushima Prefecture. Each image includes a different trawl sample, in some cases represented as tiny plankton, and captioned with the grid reference of where each sample was collected.

Being able to record plastic at source from such a unique location, despite the devastating circumstances and emotional impact of natural disaster has provided a unique opportunity for scientific research.

Staring down into the ocean and seeing unmistakable objects pass by such as a boot laced to the top, a pair of children’s shoes, buckets, cups, caps, felt-tipped marker, syringe, coat hanger, etc., are a constant reminders of lives lost. Unidentified plastic particles seem to represent people, and similarities are seen in the plastics collected; a shred of bag like a face, styrofoam like bone, a twisted bottleneck like a flower, and a plastic tag like a butterfly. A reminder of life from retrieved plastic, not only from the objects they once were, and where they came from, but more importantly from whom they belonged. This work therefore both represents a visual awareness of plastic pollution essential for scientific research, but more importantly the memorial of a tragic event.

Each image is based on a collection of marine plastic that forms a SHOAL, arrangements of different species of fish that the plastic ultimately affects. Objects and particles have been duplicated to represent both the scale of lives lost and the amount of plastic that entered the Pacific Ocean as a result of the Thoku earthquake and Japanese Tsunami, March 11th 2011.

[Shoal] is a description given to a group of fish swimming together, a large number of people, or things.