On Thursdays, we read reviews or news stories about art or design and study the language used in them. This week’s article is about eco-art photographer, Mandy Barker.


NG photo caption: Every piece of plastic here was found in the stomach of a single albatross chick. Laid bare outside the bird they killed, the plastic pieces—from the bottle caps in the top row to the tiny fragments along the bottom—all represent “parts of something we could have once used,” photographer Mandy Barker says. 

Here are the first three paragraphs from National Geographic, in italics.

When photographer Mandy Barker returned to the English beach where she collected shells as a child, she found a baby’s car seat and a refrigerator among piles of plastic waste. She also noticed an air of indifference: It seemed to her that people weren’t fazed by seeing a beach strewn with litter.

So she changed the context. By collecting pieces of plastic waste and photographing them on a plain background, Barker found that the trash became shocking again. “I wanted to create something that would resonate,” she says.

That impulse has led to a series of photographic projects that illuminate plastic’s ubiquity as well as its reach—how printer cartridges that spilled off a ship in the Atlantic Ocean, for example, washed up on beaches from North Africa to Norway. Or how discarded bottle caps, from the hundreds of billions of plastic bottles that are manufactured each year, turn up on beaches—and in birds—around the world. Barker crowdsourced a global collection to show that.

My comments:

In the first paragraph, we learn about how Barker got started on her current work. We see the phrase an air of indifference. Indifference means you don’t care about something, and in this situation, an air is a quality that a person or thing has. We also see the words fazed and strewn. To be fazed means to feel afraid or concerned, and strewn means covered with. So the writer is saying that the other people on the beach didn’t seem to care about all the waste they saw.

In the second paragraph, we learn about Barker’s approach and motivation. The writer uses the word by to describe how Barker does her work. We also see the words found and shocking. In this situation, found means discovered or noticed, and shocking means very surprising and upsetting. So Barker discovered that by photographing the trash this way, she was able to get people to care about the trash on the beach.

In the third paragraph, we learn more details about Barker’s work and her mission to educate people about the problems with plastic. An impulse is a sudden strong desire to do something, and a series is a group of artworks with the same theme. Ubiquity comes from the adjective ubiquitous, which means something is seen everywhere. And reach means how far something can go. The writer is saying that Barker’s strong desire to change people’s attitude about plastic caused her to create a series of photographic projects that show how much plastic trash there is and how far it can travel.

For example, the writer mentions the photo of the printer cartridges (above) which spilled off a ship in the Atlantic Ocean, and washed up on beaches from North Africa to Norway. Washed up is a phrasal verb that means the water brought something onto the land.  She gives us another example of discarded bottle caps, from the hundreds of billions of plastic bottles that are manufactured each year, turn up on beaches—and in birds—around the world. Discarded means the things we throw in the trash, and the phrasal verb turn up means to be found. Manufactured means something made in large amounts by machines. So she’s saying that the billions of bottle caps that people throw in the trash each year are found on beaches and in birds’ stomachs all over the world. In the last sentence, we see the word crowdsourced, which means to get something, like money or help, from a large number of people using the Internet. In this situation, Barker crowdsourced bottlecaps, so she used the Internet to get people from all over the world to send these discarded bottlecaps to her.

For an artist like Mandy Barker, it’s very important to be able to explain your work and your mission clearly if you want to get people from all over the world to get involved and help you. A good language coach can help you to find the best way to describe your work, your mission, and to ask for help from other people.

At Artglish, we help artists and designers to describe their work with the best vocabulary and language possible. Every Thursday we study reviews and articles to share useful words and phrases to help you improve your reading and writing skills. If you want to learn more, click here to join The Studio and try some free ways to improve your English, or check out our Lessons page to learn how Artglish can help you succeed.

I’ve chosen 5 words or phrases for you to focus on today. They are in bold. If you don’t know them, look up the meaning, synonyms, antonyms, and other forms of these words. You can find links to Merriam-Webster dictionary sites at the bottom of this page.

To read the original article, written by Natasha Daly in the June 2018 edition, click the link below:

To see more of Mandy Barker’s work, click the link below: