Running the Numbers: An American Self-Portrait


Chris Jordan‘s latest work is an interesting collection of images which quantify some American statistics: Running the Numbers.

Ben Franklin by Chris JordanPart of Ben Franklin by Chris Jordan (depicts 125,000 one-hundred dollar bills ($12.5 million), equal to the amount the U.S. government spends every hour on the war in Iraq)

This new series looks at contemporary American culture through the austere lens of statistics. Each image portrays a specific quantity of something: fifteen million sheets of office paper (five minutes of paper use); 106,000 aluminum cans (thirty seconds of can consumption) and so on. My hope is that images representing these quantities might have a different effect than the raw numbers alone, such as we find daily in articles and books. Statistics tend to feel abstract and anesthetizing, making it difficult to connect with and make meaning of 31,000 American suicides per year, for example, or 2.3 million Americans in prison, or a trillion dollars spent on the Iraq war. This project visually examines these vast and bizarre measures of our society, in large intricately detailed photographic prints assembled from tens-of-thousands of smaller images. The series is still in its early stages, and new images will be posted as they are completed, so please stay tuned.

I like the visually impressive “Cans Seurat” (depicting 106,000 aluminum cans, equal to the number of cans consumed in the US every thirty seconds), and the mind numbing 2.3 million “Prison Uniforms” (equal to the number of Americans in prison in 2005).

Visit the project page for more stunning works of art.