Will Richardson kindly tipped my attention cap towards the work of big-format photographer, Chris Jordan, earlier today. Haven't been able to shake his mind-bending images since.
A photographer, yes. But something far richer than that. Especially if you are a believer in the evolving need to be able to 'tell engaging stories' inside the land of complex, data-dense, statistical landscapes without falling prey to pain-in-the-eye spreadsheets and 1-D pie graphs.
Using massive scale photographs in the "Running the Numbers" series, Jordan manages to take something really hard to grasp -- say the "contemporary American culture through the austere lens of statistics" -- and turns your eye his way hard-n-fast.
Like much of the design-centric data visualization examples that Dan Meyer has been doggedly drawing his teaching colleagues' attention to over the last year or more -- take Feltron's annual reports, for instance -- Jordan's photos turn spreadsheets into eye candy.
Well, let's say you wanted to talk to your students about the rapid onslaught of plastic water bottle usage in our country...and what impact it might have if you're really serious about recylcing. Sure, you could say to your kids,
"Hey, kids, did you know that 2 million plastic water bottles are used EVERY 5 MINUTES in the United States?! No? You didn't? Sounds like a lot, huh? But how much is 2 million every 5 minutes? Okay...everyone take out their notebook while I get my pie chart up on the board."
Or you could show your students the following series of photos:
2 million botttles at 60x120":
2 million bottles at partial zoom:
2 million bottles detail at actual size:
This -- I believe -- is something our students will get with a capital 'G'. And they'll crave more, as many as you can get a hold of!
I'm dying to show the entire series here, but if you're curious you only have to jump over to Jordan's site and look for the "Running the Numbers" collection.
I do, however, want to share 3 photos from another one of his collections that he entitled, "In Katrina's Wake". A healthy reminder of how good 99.9% of us have it no matter what our complaints may be in the middle of the school week: