One of the Chosen Ones: Chris Jordan

Andréa Fernandes

Described by Portfolio as "the unofficial artist of the Harper's Index," photographer Chris Jordan creates massive images that illustrate stunning statistics. Shown above is "Cans Seurat" (2007), a recreation of George Seurat's "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" and part of Jordan's "Running the Numbers: An American Self-Portrait." Some facts about Jordan's own life and artistic motivations:

1. "Cans Seurat" measures 60" by 92" and depicts 106,000 aluminum cans, the number of cans used in the U.S. every thirty seconds. Explaining the large scale of his art, Chris Jordan has said, ""¦the size of the prints carries part of the message—the consumerism issue is huge and complex and overwhelming, and I want the prints to feel that way."

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2. Before becoming a full-time photographer, Jordan worked for 10 years as a lawyer. He had attended law school "for all the wrong reasons," though, and spent all his free time and money on photography. As Jordan describes it, "I tried to do both, but each one leaked into the other; my legal career suffered and I was perpetually frustrated at not having enough time to photograph." Nearing 40, Jordan became motivated by "the fear of not living my life" to ditch his legal career and pursue his photography full-time.

3. Feeling that "color photography is to the eyes what jazz is to the ears," Jordan is most artistically influenced by music. He has played jazz piano since childhood and considers music and art "different languages for expressing the same experience."

4. Jordan heard statistics and often wondered, "What, exactly, does that mean? What does that number look like?" By creating his "Running the Numbers" series, Jordan hopes to have a different effect than raw numbers alone, since "statistics can feel abstract and anesthetizing."

5. Like many people, Jordan "always envied famous people and craved to be one of the "˜chosen ones,'" but has since realized fame doesn't quite live up to the hype. According to Jordan, all the attention "has turned out"¦ to be fatiguing and filled with anxiety"¦ it is more like a symptom that I need to deal with more carefully from now on."

Larger versions of "Cans Seurat", a partial zoom of the image, and the details at actual size are available from Jordan's site. Fans should check out Chris Jordan's Web site; the Bill Moyers profile of Jordan; Jordan's presentations at TED and Greener Gadgets; and Jordan on The Colbert Report. "Feel Art Again" appears every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. You can e-mail us at with artist suggestions or details of current exhibitions.