Life & Culture

Photos Exploring the Aesthetic Potential of Plastic

Photographer and plastic bag enthusiast Michael James Fox previews his new book, PLASTICS

Plastic is many things: it’s one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century and almost essential to modern-day human existence, but also a contentious topic and an undisputable threat to the environment, particularly the oceans.

The material is also the subject of a new book by New York-based photographer Michael James Fox, who recently shot actor Jeff Goldblum for Another Man. Titled PLASTICS, this book explores the aesthetic potential of the material.

Full of beautiful, abstracted images of plastic, the publication features two bodies of work: one focussing on the plastic bag, one on plastic in public spaces, as well as an essay by cultural historian and writer Anna Thomasson.

Fox, it turns out, is quite obsessed with the material – though he’s not sure why – and collects plastic bags. Here, he reflects on this obsession and tells us more about his book, which launches tomorrow at Claire de Rouen in Bethnal Green.

“I started collecting plastic bags while I was travelling in Japan back in 2005. Plastic bags are universal but the colour and shape differ in every country, so I started looking out for ones that I might like to bring home. I would search local bodegas, supermarkets, street vendors for bags to add to my collection. I’m not sure how many I have now, but they do take up some space in my apartment.

“There are two projects featured in the book: a plastic bag still-life series and plastic observed in public spaces. I wanted to focus on the ways the material serves as containers, separators, and maybe most frequently protectors. Towards the end of the project, I found myself exploring the ways trauma affect my own internal protector and persecutor.

“While plastic is the common theme in this book, I’m not trying to make any sort of statement about it. That’d be too big. A lot of these images were made during difficult times as far as my own mental health was concerned and plastic became the material I was most drawn to repeatedly. I’m still curious about what that means to me personally.”