Apply  Give Now

2011 Archives

From treasure to trash

Unusual photo exhibit examines of waste and modern consumerism

July 1, 2011

DALLAS (SMU) – Chris Jordan’s challenging photographic examination of waste and modern consumerism is on display at SMU’s Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering through Aug. 10.

The Great Wave Off Kanagawa by Chris Jordan
Gyre 2009 by Chris Jordan (8x11 feet, in three vertical panels) depicts 2.4 million pieces of plastic, equal to the estimated number of pounds of plastic pollution that enter the world's oceans every hour. All of the plastic in this image was collected from the Pacific Ocean.

Free and open to the public, the travelling exhibit is presented by the Hunter & Stephanie Hunt Institute for Engineering & Humanity within the Lyle School.  Running the Numbers: Portraits of Mass Consumption is a series of photo-based conceptual works that translate statistics associated with waste into visual images. In the image titled Gyre, for example, closer examination of what appears to be a Japanese-styled illustration of a tsunami reveals tiny images of 2.4 million pieces of plastic, equal to the number of pounds of plastic pollution that enter the world’s oceans every hour.

The images are on display in SMU’s Caruth Hall, 3145 Dyer Street, Dallas, Texas, 75205, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jordan’s works are hanging throughout the building, and a printed key to their locations with descriptions of each is available in the Hunt Institute office suite in room 206 of Caruth Hall. Parking is available in the Moody Parking Garage at 3063 SMU Boulevard. Find these locations at

Jordan’s work has been shown around the world in solo and group exhibitions, including the David Brower Center in Berkeley, California, and at the Passage de Retz in Paris.  Jordan received the Sierra Club’s Ansel Adams Award for Conservation Photography in 2010 and participated in the Envisioning Change exhibition at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, Norway.  Jordan discussed his experiences documenting the hidden costs of consumerism at SMU’s Tate Distinguished Lecture Series in January 2009.  

The Hunt Institute brought the exhibit to the Lyle School to help teach future engineers the associated burdens that come with technology, but wanted to make the images available to people outside the campus as well. “Reactions to Jordan's works are often strong,” said Geoffrey Orsak, dean of the Lyle School. “But their real power is in their ability to turn facts into images that explain rampant consumerism on a gut level, and spotlight technology's codependence upon this most human of traits.”

Find out more about Chris Jordan’s art and environmental activism at - moon.

Read an essay on the exhibit by Professor Geoffrey Orsak, dean of SMU's Lyle School of Engineering.


SMU is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today, SMU enrolls nearly 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools.




Find an Expert