• Beyond Drifting
  • Beyond Drifting Mandy Barker
  • Beyond Drifting Mandy Barker
  • Beyond Drifting Mandy Barker
  • Beyond Drifting Mandy Barker
  • Beyond Drifting Mandy Barker
  • Beyond Drifting Mandy Barker
  • Beyond Drifting Mandy Barker
  • Beyond Drifting Mandy Barker
  • Beyond Drifting Mandy Barker
  • Beyond Drifting Mandy Barker
  • Beyond Drifting Mandy Barker
  • Beyond Drifting Mandy Barker
  • Beyond Drifting Mandy Barker
  • Beyond Drifting Mandy Barker
  • Beyond Drifting Mandy Barker

Beyond Drifting: Imperfectly Known Animals
Mandy Barker

See our Digest Edition and Artist Edition

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 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.

FIRST EDITION Trade Hardcover, 104 pages, 23 x 17.5 cm portrait
Section-sewn binding with book ribbon; interior tip-in; dust jacket; hand finishes
59 colour photographs + illustrations throughout
Published 1 May 2017 | ISBN: 9780994791917


Out of stock


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 England, UK, Mandy Barker is an international award winning photographer whose work involving marine plastic debris has received global recognition. Beyond Drifting: Imperfectly Known Animals was shortlisted for the 2017 Prix Pictet, the global award in photography and sustainability, and the publication nominated for the 2018 Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize.

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, United Nations Headquarters and 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. In 2018 she received the National Geographic Society Grant for Research and Exploration.


Reviews + Press

“Beyond Drifting: Imperfectly Known Animals is an astounding piece of work, one in which Barker takes the most humdrum of things – plastic detrius – inserts it into an intriguing, multilayered historical narrative, lends its physical form a gossamer, airy beauty, and presents the whole to us in the form of a book. Not just any book, but a replica of an old science publication from the 1800s, including mould-spotted pages, a library lending form and specimen labels.”Lucy Davies, V&A Magazine May 2017

“Barker’s intelligence and spunk in designing this book is the reason for its success. In addressing a contemporary environmental problem in the guise of a 19th century album, she does more than connect the viewers with the past and nature, a time where the oceans were clean. Instead, we are allowed to make our own discovery, and in doing so, reconnecting with sense of wonder and mystery, when looking at photographs.”
Sabrina Mandanici for Collector Daily

Now, 170 years after Atkins, another British woman has produced an important photobook that echoes Victorian-era science even as it exposes a contemporary environmental crisis. Mandy Barker’s Beyond Drifting: Imperfectly Known Animals similarly occupies that liminal space where art and science converge, and its impeccable presentation exemplifies how book design can extend content.Laura M. André, review on Photo-eye

“Her images could be mistaken for Victorian glass-plate photographs; in fact they are ornate, long-exposure studies of the plastic debris that pollutes beaches in and around Cobh in Cork Harbour, Ireland.”Tom Seymour, BJP

“Beyond Drifting is a clever critique of a massive environmental problem – and, in focusing in on one small area of Ireland in particular, Barker highlights a global issue.”Mark Sinclair, Creative Review

“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
Review by Sabrina Mandanici for Collector Daily
Review on Photomonitor, by Riikka Kuittienen
Featured in FOAM #50: Water
Feature in Ernest Journal, Issue 7
Feature portfolio in Il Sole 24 Ore, 100th Issue “New forms of artificial life: an attempt to catalog” (Print and online, Italy)
Feature in FT Magazine, “The problem with plastic”
Harper’s Bazaar Arabia, “Best Art Books 2018: 4 Top Art books to read this month”
Hyperallergic’s choice, 16 Art and Design Books for Your Holiday Gift List
Review by Joerg Colberg in Conscientious Magazine, “Imperfectly Known Animals”
Feature in GUP magazine #54
Feature in Hyperallergic, “Imagine If a Victorian Scientist Studied the Plastic Debris in Our Oceans”
Photo-eye review by Laura M. André
Interview with Pixel Magazine
Featured on Joseph Chladek’s Virtual Bookshelf
Review in V&A Magazine (by Lucy Davies), Spring 2017
Audio interview with The Documentary Photographer Podcast by Roger Overall, Episode 27
Feature in Irish Examiner, “Meet the woman turning the oceans’ trash into photographic gold”
Feature in Smithsonian, “These Haunting Photographs Call Attention to Plastic Trash Swirling in the Ocean”
Feature in The Guardian, “Red alert: Kofi Annan on the photos that capture our choking planet”
Feature in Creative Review, “Unnatural History: The New Creatures in our Oceans”
Feature Interview with Photoworks
Feature in The Telegraph Magazine, 29 April 2017
Preview in BJP, “On show: Prix Pictet ‘Space’ at the V&A”
Feature in New Scientist, “Animal or Mineral?”, 22 April 2017 (Issue #3122)
Feature in RPS Journal, April 2017
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”
Features in DMU News: “This beach is 12ft deep in rubbish”; “Photography graduate’s powerful images published in first book”
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

Artist Edition here

* This body of work was shortlisted for 2017 Prix Pictet, the global award in photography and sustainability.
* Mandy Barker and Overlapse NOMINATED for the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2018 for this publication

* Selected by Smithsonian Magazine: The Ten Best Photography Books of 2017
* Selected Photo-eye Best Books of 2017 by Laura M. André and Sara Terry
* Selected Photobooks of 2017: David Solo (for Photobookstore Magazine)
* Selected Photobooks of 2017: 10×10 Photobooks Team (for Photobookstore Magazine)
* Selected by Bint photoBooks on INTernet Best of 2017
* Selected by Women Photograph: Photobooks of 2017
* Selected by Ramón Reverté as a favourite photobook find in 2017, Unseen Magazine

* Photoeye Weekly Bestseller#4 for Week ending 20 May 2017; #10 for Week ending 13 May 2017
* Photobookstore Recommended titles, May 2017

* Exhibition at V&A London: Collecting Photography: From Daguerreotype to Digital, 12 October 2018 – 4 September 2020
* Curated selection for ‘Plastics’ exhibition, the Science Gallery at Trinity College Dublin, 25 October 2019 – 9 February 2020

Exhibitions in 2017/2018
June 2018 at Fotofestiwal in Łódź, ‘Human nature’
June 2018 at Triennial of Photography, ‘A Breaking Point: ENTER’ Exhibition, Hamburg
2018 Athens Photo Festival Photobook Exhibition, 6 June – 29 July at Benaki Museum
September/October 2018 at BredaPhoto, ‘To Infinity and Beyond

8-17 September 2017 at Landskrona Foto Festival, Sweden
6-28 May 2017 at the V&A in London
28 May – 2 July 2017 at Sirius Arts Centre, Cobh, Cork, Ireland
Through June 2017 at Nature Museum Fryslân – Noorderlicht Plastic: Fossil to Fossil
24 March – 23 April 2017 at FORMAT Photography Festival HABITAT

Beyond Drifting is held in the following collections:
AGO Edward P. Taylor Library & Archives (Toronto, CA)
The British Library (UK)
Albin O. Kuhn Library & Gallery (Baltimore, USA)
Bailey-Howe Library UVM (Burlington, USA)
Biblioteca della Fondazione Edmund Mach (San Michele All Adige, IT)
Biblioteca de la Universidad Complutense de Madrid (ES)
The Claremont Colleges (CA, USA)
Getty Research Institute (Los Angeles, USA)
The National Art Library at the V&A (London, UK)
Duke University Perkins Library (Durham, NC)
ETH-Bibliothek (Zürich, Switzerland)
Foam Museum Library (Amsterdam, NL)
Hellenic Centre for Photography (Athens, GR)
LIBRIS (Stockholm, SE)
National College of Art and Design (Dublin, IE)
Pennsylvania State University Libraries (University Park, USA)
The Photographers Gallery (London, UK)
Reminders Photography Stronghold (Tokyo, JP)
San Telmo Museum – The Gabriela Cendoya Bergareche Collection (ES)
Tate Library (London, UK)
Tufts University Tisch Library (Medford, USA)
University for the Creative Arts, Farnham (UK)
University of Colorado (Boulder, USA)
University of Connecticut (Storrs, USA)
University of Nebraska (Lincoln, USA)
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
University of Texas at Arlington (USA)
L’école Nationale Supérieure de la Photographie (Arles, FR)