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1,000 Words

Intolerable Beauty

Chris Jordan is part of a cohort of environmental photographers who, rather than turning their lens on nature, focus attention on the unnaturalness of our daily surroundings. Sure, the “environment” – that is, biological systems unmarred by humanity’s handprint – is lovely. Half Dome will always take one’s breath away. But the environments that we most frequently experience look much different – the scrap lots, lumberyards, and rail lines glimpsed from the freeway. By concentrating on such sights, Jordan is suggesting that in order to protect the planet, we need to confront the ugliness (sometimes disguised as industrial beauty) that our lifestyles create. His photos, Jordan hopes, will serve as “portals to a kind of cultural self-inquiry.”

A former attorney, Jordan gave up law to dedicate himself fulltime to photography. He has published two books, Intolerable Beauty: Portraits of American Mass Consumption and In Katrina’s Wake: Portraits of Loss from an Unnatural Disaster. To see more of his work, visit

photo of stacked timber, each log butt marked 
Pole yard, Tacoma, 2004.

Sawdust, Tacoma, 2004.

photo of a wide landscape covered with cars
Car junkyard, Vancouver, WA, 2004.

photo of a giant pile of durable garbage, with a junked autmated teller machine in the foreground 
e-Bank, Tacoma, 2004.


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