Personal work – The Plastic Menu

PERSONAL WORK | The Plastic Menu, a collaboration with stylist Jun Chen.

January 2022

Late last year I was reading a report about humans ingesting food contaminated with microplastics, and it is apparently so much now that we are (allegedly) eating up to fifty grams per week. That’s roughly the equivalent of a credit card’s worth of plastic! These microplastics are mainly found in bottled water, processed food such as microwave rice and ready meals, and in seafood, particularly prawns, scallops and mussels.

To quote a Reuters news article, “People are ingesting plastic from drinking water but also through foods like shellfish, which tends to be eaten whole so the plastic in their digestive systems is also consumed.” Microplastics have also recently been found in human placentas and in blood samples, so we are literally becoming one with plastic, a truly frightening thought.

Having been environmentally conscious and a recycler and repurposer since I was a child, I was delighted when I discovered that one of my regular stylists, Jun Chen, had very similar feelings about caring for the planet and reducing waste.

As a result, Jun and I set about creating a series of images based on a not-too-far-off future where the earth is exhausted from nearly two hundred years of non-stop agriculture, and so polluted from seven-plus decades of mass plastic production, that all that is available on the menu is plastic food choices.

Jun “cooked” the “food” entirely out of plastic, rubber and paper waste that we spent months collecting. We used trash from shoots, scooped out of rubbish bins, collected on the street, and asked neighbours to save the plastic clips from bread bags. We repurposed discarded items found in council clean ups and managed to put together eight popular fast food items.

We have eight different menu items on offer and we hope that you enjoy your meal. There might not be much flavour, but what the food lacks in flavour, it makes up for in appearance. Look closely at the ingredients and see what you can spot used in the menu selections. Sushi anybody?

Photography and retouching by Tanya Zouev | Set creation, build and styling by Jun Chen.