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Witches' Knickers XVI
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Plastic bag art: how to spoil any view

Laura Sevier

30th November, 2009

Many plastic bags end up as waste on our streets, parks and beaches. Rosie Barnes' photographs capture these blots on the landscape

Plastic bags. They're the one thing guaranteed to spoil any view, wherever you are. But photographer Rosie Barnes wants you to see them in a new light.

Her Plastic Bag, AKA 'Witches' Knickers' series, features abandoned bags entangled in tree branches or lying strewn on the pavement. The bags look ugly alright, but the backdrops look beautiful: evergreen trees and autumn leaves, long wild grass, cow parsley.

The bag scenes are shot in such an aesthetic way that the overall image doesn't look too bad after all. Doesn't that confuse the message? Rosie doesn't think so:

'I think if you show people the naked, ugly truth, they can very easily switch off,' she says. Which is why she always tries to put across a social comment in a ‘visually aesthetic way.'

'With so many 'news' stories we're so accustomed to seeing "doom and gloom" that it almost stops touching us. So, I try to make a visually stimulating image that will stay with you and make you think about the subject, perhaps in a different way.'

Witches' Knickers

She started taking photographs for the 'Witches' Knickers' series a couple of years ago. 'Sometimes I do go out walking with my camera looking for them, other times I just come across them,' she says.

Why 'Witches' Knickers'? 'It is a term commonly used in Ireland - as a name I think it's funny, evocative and a whole lot more interesting than "discarded plastic bags".'

None of the images, all shot in South East London, have been set up or manipulated in any way: Barnes still uses film (not digital). As a social documentary photographer, she is particularly interested in 'our relationship with the natural world'.

As for her relationship with plastic bags she says: ‘I have been an avid non-consumer of plastic bags for quite some time, but I often wonder if there'll ever be a time when they no longer exist in our landscape.'

The Witches' Knickers photos are on exhibition at 60 Barnes High Street, London SW13 until 16th December.

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Laura Sevier is the Ecologist's Green Living Editor

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