Ottawa-based photographer John Healey draws our attention to environmental issues in his series Plastic Beach, a set of still life images of foraged plastic refuse discovered along the shores of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River. Here, discarded shopping bags, fragments of milk jugs, and crushed bottle caps are reanimated to show us the carelessness with which we treat the habitat that is home to millions of creatures. Arranged in dramatic light, Healey positions these plastic items, evidence of human pollution, as messages in a bottle that have washed up on shore to deliver an ominous message: we cannot ignore these warnings any longer.
Recipient of the 2020 Project X Photography Award, John Healey grew up along the St. Lawrence River in Brockville, Ontario. His work has been shown nationally at the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival in 2017 and 2020. His image Jug Top, from his Plastic Beach series was selected as Honourable Mention in the 2019 Optic Nerve competition held by Blackflash magazine and was included in the recent exhibition Common Waters at Cambridge Art Galleries. Healey’s Michigan Man After Arcimboldo, also from the Plastic Beach series, was awarded the Grand Prize from Figureworks 2019. John lives and practices in Ottawa.
The Project X Photography Award recognizes and celebrates the merits of a publicly presented photographic project by an Ottawa-based artist. The award recipient is selected by a jury of arts, photography, and media experts and is presented by SPAO, the Ottawa Art Gallery, and the Ottawa Arts Council.
John Healey’s Plastic Beach series was created with support from the Ontario Arts Council.
The Project X Photography Award is presented by SPAO, the OAG, and the Ottawa Arts Council.
John Healey, Styrofoam Cloud, Lake Ontario, 2019, Archival Pigment Ink on Baryta 30 x 40” © John Healey, courtesy of the artist.