De-Numbing Our Statistics

[Giving Up Violence For Lent]

If I tell you that an estimated 2.3 million women and girls are subject to sexual enslavement in India’s brothels (Gary Haugen, The Locust Effect), that “more African American adults are under correctional control today – in prison or jail, on probation or parole – than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the civil war began” (Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow) or that 40% of food produced in the United States is wasted (, what do you feel? I’m guessing not much. Or maybe, if you’re like most people, a moment’s shock and outrage, before continuing with your day. The problem is, statistics tend to have a numbing effect. We don’t know how to process the realities of mammoth violence and injustice, so statistics tend to go in one ear and out the other.

Chris Jordan uses his photography to try and change that. He wants to help us feel statistics, so he has digitally manipulated his photos to show us what those numbers look like, and to recognize the ramifications of our small actions added up among millions of people. Here are a couple examples:

Prison Uniforms:ChrisJordanPrisonUniforms

“Prison Uniforms, 2007     10×23 feet in six vertical panels
Depicts 2.3 million folded prison uniforms, equal to the number of Americans incarcerated in 2005. The U.S. has the largest prison population of any country in the world.”

Plastic Cups

Chris Jordan - Plastic Cups copy

    You can zoom in on these photos, and see all of Chris Jordan’s exhibit: Running the Numbers: An American Self Portrait.
      Watch his important TED Talk here:

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