@RandyOlson / Randy Olson
Photos and videos by RandyOlson
This family sorts plastic under a bridge in Dhaka that is part of an amalgamated informal plastics industry. The communities involved in plastic waste become specialized. Some have contacts with hospitals or casinos to bring plastic waste into the slums for processing. Others sort white bottles, or broken plastic buckets. Some groups have access to vehicles and can take the material to junk shops that store the waste in the same way a wheat farmer stores the grain, waiting for better pricing. And finally there are those with big trucks who take the plastic bales to ports or large local processing companies. Sometimes the plastic doesn’t make it out of the slums. There are businesses that make finished plastic objects like flip flops from the plastic waste being sorted by the business next door. #PlanetorPlastic @thephotosociety @natgeocreative _________ These images are part of a multiyear effort at National Geographic to raise awareness about the global plastic waste crisis. Learn what you can do to help. Take Your Pledge: natgeo.com/environment/pledge
Informal Plastic Waste Economy - Dhaka, Bangladesh, Carefully sorted and run thru chipping machines, plastic waste is laid out to dry after washing in the river. The race to cities generates workers for the informal plastic waste industry. People rush to mega-cities without having any way of supporting themselves and end up with jobs laying out slightly processed plastic in public areas for a few dollars a day. This woman is turning the plastic over so it will dry more efficiently. #PlanetorPlastic @thephotosociety @natgeocreative _________ These images are part of a multiyear effort to raise awareness about the global plastic waste crisis at National Geographic @natgeo Learn what you can do to help. Take Your Pledge: natgeo.com/environment/pledge
Check out @NatGeo Instagram feed as National Geographic magazine and National Geographic Society launch Planet or Plastic? (#PlanetorPlastic ), kicking off a multiyear effort to raise awareness about the global plastic crisis. I will be sharing photographs made on assignment for National Geographic, documenting plastic waste around the globe. _________ PLASTIC APOCALYPSE - There are millions of slum workers around the world involved in an informal plastic waste industry that is always hiring — an economy with no end in sight. With the shale oil boom, companies like Shell, Dow and others are in the early years of gearing up “cracker plants” that “crack" frack-gas-molecules into mostly single-use-plastic for food packaging. Plans are in the works for more and more cracker plants pushing peak plastic production all the way out to the year 2100. Despite growing concern and much discussion in the media this past year, corporations plan for more and more single-use-plastic in our lives. In the first photo, a Bangladeshi woman teaches her son how to bail plastic sheeting that has been washed in the river below. The second photo is the world's largest ethylene-cracker plant in Freeport, TX, that produces mostly thin-film-food-packaging. #PlanetorPlastic _________ These images are part of a multiyear effort to raise awareness about the global plastic waste crisis. Learn what you can do to help. Take Your Pledge: natgeo.com/environment/plasticpledge
photo by @randyolson | words by @neilshea13 — Listen to locals on Easter Island and they’ll tell you the big statues once walked—loped out of the quarry and over the treeless hills to set themselves up on dark stone pedestals near the shore or plant themselves, backs to the sea, farther inland. It’s a good story and true, but if it does not answer your questions then archaeologists will offer another, one of earthly forces, friction and gravity, ropes and logs. Teams of men and maybe women who tipped, wobbled and pulled nearly 900 moai across the landscape to anchor the sky to earth and the ancestors to their children. This also is a good, true story. So, which will it be? Magic or data, faith or muscle? Both have their attractions. Both deliver you into a world that Europeans glimpsed only for a moment before it vanished. You could choose the middle ground, somewhere between a stroll and a drag, but these days almost nobody lasts very long in there. Take your time deciding, then. There’s really no wrong answer. In the meantime, I feel compelled to mention that this moai—sunken, surrounded by divers—is fake. Yeah. It’s concrete. Cast onshore and then dumped, not so long ago, into the sea. I’m sorry. I wanted it to be real, too—this figure, alone, walking out beyond the others. It would have been the best story of all. — @thephotosociety @natgeocreative , #easterisland #rapanui #polynesian #moai #captaincook #oceans #science #myth #archaeology #carving #engineering #wildcountry #explorer #scuba #natgeo #photographers #writers #adryseason #watershedstories — Part of a series exploring the small stories that surround and connect us, and how we stumble through them—capturing, missing, and making meaning.
photo by @randyolson | words by @neilshea13 — Larry said he did it all the time, walked Cocoa down a path behind the general store to the river and let him play. Nobody paid much mind. Normal to hear them crashing through the water, wrestling, like brothers. The guy who’d owned the store previously kept pit bulls, loud and mean, awful things, and so Cocoa was an improvement even if people had never seen such a creature before in the Ozarks. Larry called him a cinnamon bear, though the chest stripe suggested a land far more exotic, and in the mornings you’d find him sitting on the bench swing outside the store, straight-backed, folded paws, just another customer waiting for Larry to open shop. Imagine that—You come over early looking for coffee and find Cocoa, silent and watchful, like you hadn’t yet come all the way up from a dream. Larry kept him on a chain most of the time and used the stick not for hurting but for guiding. Suggesting. Keeping a little distance. On this day, though, the play turned bad and Cocoa ended up on top of Larry, pinning him to the bottom of the Little Buffalo, watching his air go. It was a great game—all those bubbles, the little arms flailing, the lousy stick floating downstream. When Cocoa finally let off, Larry slowly rose and stood there in the water, half-drowned and drooling. Eventually the two dripped back toward shore. There were chores ahead, customers waiting. Day was getting hot. Who knows what had passed between them or where things went from there. — #arkansas #ozarks #littlebuffaloriver #bears #sunbear #bearsofinstagram #rivers #adryseason #watershedstories #new_haiga #wildcountry #backwoods @natgeo @natgeocreative @thephotosociety — Part of a series exploring the small stories that surround and connect us, and how we stumble through them—capturing, missing, and making meaning.
words by @neilshea13 — There goes Anatoly, into water so cold even the dog wouldn’t enter. There was a lot of nakedness on that expedition. Mostly centered around make-shift saunas the Russians built, but not always, and saunas couldn’t explain what happened on the last night. There was still a kind of joy in the country then, like the release of a good stretch after a long journey. For years the Soviets had forbidden travel on the plateau, but the geographical society had eventually talked their way in and we joined them. We landed in Norilsk, gliding over nuclear silos and nickel mines and carrying a bag full of cash. With our money the Russians bought supplies and loaded them into an aging military helicopter—wood stoves, axes, greasy canvas tents, oven mitts stuffed with nails. The dog we brought to frighten bears. It was hard going. What is the tundra but a cold swamp, vicious, beautiful, and grasping? On the last night the expedition leader finally unlocked his supply of vodka and soon all clothing vanished. Then, someone found the flare guns and started shooting up the sky like he was trying to knock out the northern lights, which waved and wailed above us in spirit silence. Was it joy, or madness? Too much time spent in empty country? Suddenly one of the tents burst into flames and the dog, the poor wretched dog, flew out of that collapsing pyre in a howling streak. Men cursed and fell and cried as they chased the flaming creature, their voices thick and slobbery, bodies pale as stars. Finally someone caught it and rubbed the fire from its fur. In the end the dog lived. Who knows how, but it did. — Water. It runs through all of our work. In every story, every photo photograph, water is present—or by its absence still leaves a mark. This series is an exploration of ideas and places that are connected by water, and the ways our lives, memories and work have been shaped by it. Join us @randyolson & @neilshea13 for the journey. — #russia #siberia #norilsk #arctic #permafrost #taiga #tundra #vodka #lakes #explore #russiangeographicalsociety #watershedstories #adryseason @thephotosociety @natgeocreative
words by @neilshea13 When the river runs dry, you dig. Down into the sand through layers black with soot, through the soft bands of soil left by passing floods. As the country grows drier, dig deeper. Objects will appear along the way—broken tools, plastic bags, lumps of ancient shit. Bones, too, of animals you recognize and others you have never seen, creatures from worlds long gone. Now and then human bones will appear, perhaps even a skull darkly stained during a long residence. Ancestor, neighbor, great-grandmother—don’t worry, doesn’t matter. This land is so old, and time retires all ghosts. Keep digging. With each dry month the water recedes a little farther and soon the hole will be deeper than you are tall. But that’s all right, it’s cool at the bottom of the well and each one of you takes a turn with the work. You scoop up sand with long callused fingers and pass it up, dribbling, into the light. In a land without mirrors every woman finds herself in the dream-well, and each follows herself down into the earth. — Water. It runs through all of our work. In every story, every photo photograph, water is present—or by its absence still leaves a mark. This series is an exploration of ideas and places that are connected by water, and the ways our lives, memories and work have been shaped by it. Join us on the journey @randyolson & @neilshea13 . — #africa #ethiopia #omoriver #omovalley #kara #suri #surma #mursi #nyangatom #tribes #girls #womenandwater #rivers #well #dig #wetseason #watershedstories #adryseason @thephotosociety @natgeocreative
words by @neilshea13 — The spear should go in clean. You take aim, follow, fire. There is a little sound, a little pop. And then you pull in the spear and push the fish down the line, far down and away, as though you didn’t even want him. This is important, because on the reef there are many sharks. If you are a good fisherman, you’ll spear a lot. If you are a good shot, you’ll end up with many fish trailing behind you through the sea. If you have pierced them well there won’t be much blood but they are still moving, wriggling, fighting against the rope, and this is what attracts the big sharks. Imagine it. You are swimming around tugging along a line of bait, and in this line you are the biggest prize! So, you keep pushing the fish down and away. This is what the most experienced men learn. Maybe it's why they are still alive. If the shark comes he may take one, two, three, but let him. Better to be hungry than dead. — Water. It runs through all of our work. In every story, every photo photograph, water is present—or by its absence still leaves a mark. This series is an exploration of ideas and places that are connected by water, and the ways our lives, memories and work have been shaped by it. Join us @randyolson & @neilshea13 for the journey. — #americansamoa #nationalparkofamericansamoa #spearfishing #subsistence #fishing #tropicalreef #sharks #oceans #islands #sharks #watershedstories #adryseason @thephotosociety @natgeocreative @natgeo
words by @neilshea13 — After days of dust and travel you will arrive here, to the crossing place. You will feel compelled to choose, but you cannot wade across: the water is too deep. And you should not swim: there are too many crocs. Please also do not leave your baggage, for we promise it will vanish before your return. So, what will you do? If you have been around a little while, you understand the joke. There is the boat, or nothing. No one remembers how it got here; possibly an Italian came this far up the Omo and abandoned it. Or a Belgian went downriver and then one night disappeared into the bush. Whatever, the boat is old and unreliable. Some days it runs, some days it doesn’t, one day it’s here and the next it’s gone. We recommend that you don’t bother crossing. Drive on as far as you can, or, better, start walking. You will encounter great oxbows that swallow half a day’s journey, and enormous mosquitoes and herds of wary cattle armed with great horns to fend off lions. This photograph is our way of telling you that really it doesn’t matter which side you're on. Consider the message of geometry—the frond in the boy’s hand, the wake of the boat behind him. Coming or going, upriver or down, patterns calmly repeating. When the boy asks what you are doing here, tell him you just wanted to see if what you’d heard was true. — Water. It runs through all of our work. In every story, every photograph, water is present—or by its absence still leaves a mark. This series is an exploration of ideas and places that are connected by water, and the ways our lives, memories and work have been shaped by it. Join us @randyolson & @neilshea13 for the journey. — #ethiopia #omoriver #suri #mursi #nyangatom #kara #africaslastfrontier #crossings #rivercrossing #geometry #rivers #borders #portraits #wetseason #watershedstories #adryseason @natgeocreative @thephotosociety
words by @neilshea13 — Somewhere off Newfoundland they caught up, looped a cable around that waist of ice, and started pulling. The ship’s engines groaned, and at the waterline there was a slither of steel and plastic as the line went tight. The ice had become troublesome. Yes it was enormous, but it was also free, and that is a condition never tolerated long. On its slow wander through the North Atlantic the iceberg had come to threaten an oil platform called Hibernia, which sits a few hundred miles from the spot where, in 1912, the Titanic sank. A century later, everyone concerned wanted to avoid another wreck and so the berg was lassoed and tugged away. It takes a lot to budge the big ones, but just a few degrees will do to spare disaster. Look at those blues, all the colors of cold, and imagine the slow dissolve ahead. How long did this one last? They say such ice is a memory from the past, from the old earth, and like everything remembered it grows and shrinks and shapes itself until it falls apart. — Water. It runs through all of our work. In every story, every photograph, water is present—or by its absence still leaves a mark. This series explores of ideas and places that are connected by water, and the ways our lives and memories have been shaped by it. Join us @randyolson & @neilshea13 for the journey. — #canada #newfoundland #atlantic #arctic #ice #iceberg #icebergalley #oil #hibernia #titanic #shipwreck #memory #cold #melt #watershedstories #adryseason @thephotosociety @natgeocreative