• Beyond Drifting
  • Beyond Drifting
  • Beyond Drifting

Beyond Drifting: Imperfectly Known Animals
by Mandy Barker


Beyond Drifting: Imperfectly Known Animals encapsulates in miniature the much larger environmental problems of an imperfect world. This work presents a unique collection of plankton specimens related to the pioneering discoveries made by naturalist JV Thompson in Cork Harbour during the 1800s. These recently found specimens are deceptive, however, and mysteriously conceal their true origin.

TRADE EDITION Hardcover, 104 pages, 23 x 17.5 cm portrait
Section-sewn binding with book ribbon; dust jacket; hand finishes
59 colour photographs + illustrations throughout
Publication upcoming 1 May 2017 | ISBN: 9780994791917


Plankton form a diverse group of microscopic marine organisms that are unable to swim against powerful ocean currents; they exist in a drifting, floating state, enveloped in the black deep.

As fragile as they are, current scientific research shows that plankton ingest microplastic particles, mistaking them for food. Plankton are a crucial source of food for larger creatures up the food chain – compounding the grave impact of plastics on marine life and, ultimately, humans. Plastic debris is now ubiquitous in the Anthropocene, the period since humanity has had a significant impact on our global environment, and today nearly all living creatures are affected by its widespread contamination.

The plankton specimens in this work are beautifully photographed objects of marine plastic debris, recovered from the same location as naturalist John Vaughan Thompson’s plankton samples from 200 years ago. Long-exposure photographs record movements of recovered plastic objects floating in a black void, captured on expired film and with faulty cameras. Film grain is intentionally visible, alluding to microplastic particles being ingested. Each specimen has a new scientific name reflecting early Latin origins and containing the word ‘plastic’ hidden within its title.

Designed by Mandy Barker + Tiffany Jones

The Author

Based in Leeds UK, Mandy Barker is an international award winning photographer whose work involving marine plastic debris has received global recognition. Beyond Drifting: Imperfectly Known Animals is shortlisted for the 2017 Prix Pictet, the global award in photography and sustainability.

Barker’s work has been published widely including in TIME, National Geographic, Wired, The Financial Times, The Guardian, VICE, Smithsonian, and in numerous photographic publications. She has exhibited worldwide including at The Victoria & Albert Museum, The Photographers Gallery and Somerset House in London, The Aperture Foundation in New York, and The Science and Technology Park in Hong Kong. She was awarded the LensCulture Earth Award in 2015 and The Royal Photographic Society’s Environmental Bursary in 2012 which enabled her to join scientists for a research expedition in the tsunami debris field in the Pacific Ocean.


Reviews + Press

“Mandy Barker’s work on plastic has been developing for some time. In its latest advance, she looks at micro-particles of plastic as a species of a lunatic plankton, floating about the sea, and she has included a rather wonderful pastiche book of old-fashioned science as a way of getting us into her subject.”
Francis Hodgson, review from Unseen

See more
Feature in New Scientist, “Animal or Mineral?”, 22 April Issue #3122
Feature on Live Science, “Mysterious ‘Plastic Plankton’ Art Exhibit Reveals Extent of Ocean Pollution”
Feature on Wired.com, “Is that plankton? Nope, it’s trash”
Feature in DMU News, “This beach is 12ft deep in rubbish”
Feature in Marie Claire Italy, “Il futuro e ibridazione”, March 2017 issue
Feature in British Journal of Photography, ‘Cool + Noteworthy’, Jan 2017 issue (Showcasing the book dummy)
Feature on LensCulture
Interview with Parley, “A Beautiful Mess”

Special notes

** Boxed Artist Edition upcoming

This body of work is shortlisted for the 2017 Prix Pictet (SPACE), the global award in photography and sustainability.
All shortlisted photographers exhibit their works 6-28 May 2017 at the V&A in London. See www.prixpictet.com

Also exhibiting in 2017 at:
24 March – 23 April at FORMAT Photography Festival HABITAT
June – July at Sirius Arts Centre, Cobh, Cork, Ireland