Plastic Monster: Rankin for Surfrider Foundation

If the image becomes inescapable online, people will have no excuse for not being aware of the plastic plight in the ocean.

Photographer Rankin

Tell us about your role in the creation of this work.

In collaboration with Phil Ropy,  I came up with a concept of this plastic monster coming up from the polluted oceans and onto land. It is so easy for us to ignore pollution at sea as it isn’t directly in our faces every day, so we wanted to create a visceral image, rooted in traditional horror imagery but also contemporary with the waste of our day-to-day lives, and walk it on the land. Taking the issue from something unseen to something inescapable. I did the photography and in terms of the monster I helped with the design but the creation of the beast is done to master seamstress Charlie Watkins, who really brought our vision to life. 

Give us an overview of the campaign, what is it about?

World wide, 13,000 - 15,000 pieces of plastic are dumped into the ocean every day. That is a horrific statistic, but also conceptually so difficult for people to get their head around. You can say that is 6.4 million tonnes ever year - but I can’t imagine how much that really is, can you? This is why we came up with the plastic monster. In a sense, we wanted to give the waste a face. It is huge and scary and coming to get you. Plastic isn’t a joke, if we don’t deal with the problem it is going to destroy the ocean. We want people to think about the ocean every time they throw a piece of plastic away, so the second part of the campaign is it's distribution method. We are partnering with Getunity Inc. and Phil Ropy who produces digital philanthropy cards. Through you can donate money to Surfrider Foundation and get a digital copy of the image to share online and promote your support for a cleaner ocean. 

Tell us about the details creative brief, what did it ask? 

The brief was all about awareness. People want to be environmentally friendly, but don’t always know about the impact of everyday things on the world around us. So working for Surfrider we really just wanted to make sure people could see and understand from a single image what the issue is and what they can do to help.

Which insight led to the creation of this piece of work? 

I always like to be a bit dark with my images, but also I always want a sense of humour. So with this one we went back to traditional ideas of scary things from the deep. It is a modern, plastic, Creature From the Black Lagoon. Something which would scare you aesthetically as a child and morally now as an adult. 

Can you share with us any alternative ideas (if any) for this campaign? Why was this idea chosen?  

We also talked about making a face out of plastics, but this felt more acute.

How did the client initially react to this idea?

Me and my team always work really closely with clients. We love to collaborate so it is never a surprise pitch. I think for this one we where on the same page as Phil Ropy form the get-go and I couldn’t imagine the shoot going any other way.  

What was the greatest challenge that you and your team faced during development?

Mainly the size of our monster - it was massive and it was tough to get it on to the beach and ready for th shot. The sea was also pretty cold.

What did you enjoy most about seeing this campaign through? Did you learn anything new from the experience?

I mean, I knew plastic wasn’t great, but the statistics really did shock me. Doing this campaign has made me completely rethink objects we use every day and I am definitely more environmentally friendly now because of it. 

Where do you see this campaign going in the future?

We want the campaign to be on everyone’s instagram. If the image becomes inescapable online, people will have no excuse for not being aware of the plastic plight in the ocean. The tide is turning on plastic and we should all share the digital philanthropy card to show our support.