Mandy Barker is an international award-winning photographer whose work involving marine plastic debris over the past 10 years has received global recognition. Working with scientists she aims to raise awareness about plastic pollution in the world’s oceans whilst highlighting the harmful effect on marine life and ultimately ourselves.
Barker’s work has been published in over 40 different countries including; National Geographic Magazine, TIME Magazine, The Guardian, The Financial Times, Smithsonian, The New Scientist, The Explorer’s Journal, UNESCO, The British Journal of Photography, FOAM Magazine, VOGUE, Wired, The RPS Journal. The World Wildlife Fund, and Oxfam. She has exhibited internationally from Inner Mongolia, China, to the United Nations Headquarters, and Aperture Foundation in New York, the Victoria & Albert Museum and Photographers’ Gallery in London, and at the Science & Technology Park in Hong Kong. She has been interviewed live on many occasions by the BBC, ITV, CNN News in the United States, for ‘Connect the World’, and has also been part of the short film, ‘Circularity’ produced by VICE along with Christina Figueres and Stella McCartney. In 2019 alone, Barker’s work has been featured in over 25 exhibitions around the world including three major solo presentations at, Fotografiska Stockholm, The Royal Photographic Society and Impressions Gallery, England, UK.
Barker was shortlisted for the Prix Pictet Award SPACE 2017, the world’s leading photography award for sustainability, and also nominated for the Magnum Foundation Fund and Deutsche Borse Foundation Photography Prize 2018. She is a recipient of the 2018 National Geographic Society Grant for Research and Exploration. Her first book ‘Beyond Drifting: Imperfectly Known Animals’ was selected as one of the Ten Best Photography Books of 2017, by Smithsonian. Barker is a member of the Union of Concerned Photographers UCP, which is dedicated to using the power of imagery to underline the urgency of environmental concerns.
In June 2019 Barker took part in the ‘Henderson Island Plastic Pollution Expedition’ which has been awarded the title of an ‘Explorers Club Flag Expedition’. With only 3 – 5 expeditions per year recognised in this way – previous others having included the Apollo 11 Space Mission, and the dive to Challenger Deep – this significant achievement that included recording data as well as photographing marine plastic pollution, will now become part of the archives, and be accessible to other modern-day explorers and scholars.
In 2012 she was awarded The Royal Photographic Society’s Environmental Bursary enabling her to join scientists in a research expedition which sailed from Japan to Hawaii to examine the accumulation of marine plastic debris in the tsunami debris field in the Pacific Ocean. In June 2017 she was invited by Greenpeace to join the Beluga II Expedition which sailed around the remote and unique island locations of the Inner Hebrides, Scotland, to recover plastic debris in a commission for Greenpeace. Barker speaks internationally about her work to engage people with the plastic issue. She has been invited as a guest speaker at the National Geographic Photography Seminar 2018, Washington DC, Stanford University California, on behalf of the British Embassy and the British Council at the political festival Almedalen, Sweden, and as the opening keynote speaker for the EuroConference GlobalCapital Sustainable & Responsible Capital Markets Forum in Amsterdam.
In July 2019 Barker announced her collaboration with Stanford University through the launch of the virtual reality experience, ‘Ripple: the unintended life of plastics in the sea’. Stanford’s Communication Programme in Journalism worked with her using 4 images to represent how ubiquitous plastic has now become part of our world. The experience allows recovered plastic to be viewed alongside music and information, to encourage the viewer to become involved in an extraordinary way, and in a way that perhaps a 2-dimensional image is not able to do. The experience is available to everyone across all platforms, from viewing on a 360º headset to accessing on a mobile phone.
Engaging the younger generation through her work, Barker was part of a youth mentoring programme with First Exposures, an organisation that empowers youth through photography in San Francisco, and on April 2020 she will be the artist in resident at Four Arts, Palm Beach, Florida, United States.
“The aim of my work is to engage with and stimulate an emotional response in the viewer by combining a contradiction between initial aesthetic attraction along with the subsequent message of awareness. The research process is a vital part of my development as the images I make are based on scientific fact, essential to the integrity of my work. The impact of marine plastic is an area I have documented for more than 10 years and am committed to pursuing through visual interpretation, and in collaboration with science I hope it will ultimately lead to positive action in tackling this increasing environmental problem, which is currently of global concern”.