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Art & Culture

Beyond the tip of the plastic-berg: where the imagined meets reality

By May 15, 2020August 27th, 2020No Comments
© National Geo photo by Jorge Gamboa

What was once an iconic haunting illustration drawing attention to ocean plastic pollution has now become a reality.

If the image above looks familiar, that’s because it was rated as one of the National Geographic’s best covers. The photo illustration by Mexican artist Jorge Gamboa was published on the June 2018 cover for the magazine’s #planetorplastic campaign. It captures the viewers’ attention then delivers an element of shock by unveiling what lies below the surface, suggesting that ocean plastic is just the tip of the iceberg.

The artwork which was widely celebrated as a cover image of the ages, also won first place in Bolivia’s biennial of poster in 2017 in the political and social posters category titled ‘Iceberg Plástico’.

However, an earlier version of the visual by photographer Matus Bence is likely to be the inspiration behind the cover and Jorge’s work. The Eco Bag created by Bence in 2015 commissioned by supermarket chain Tesco illustrates the exact same idea.

© Matus Bence 2015 – Eco Bag for Tesco

While these illustrations reflect a clever and thought-provoking ‘visual pun’, the reality is as shocking as the images. Several studies have shown levels of plastic contamination in the Antarctic marine system, which was previously considered pristine compared to other regions. The most recent study identified 14 polymer types in microplastic samples from Antarctic sea ice, with some larger particles that indicate pollution from nearby sites. Anna Kelly from the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania, who led the study, told The Guardian: “The remoteness of the Southern Ocean has not been enough to protect it from plastic pollution, which is now pervasive across the world’s oceans.