The Plastic Collector
Thirza Schaap is creating plastic-pollution awareness in a very interesting way.
Thirza collects plastic waste during beach-cleanups and documents her finds by photographing them in colorful arrangements that could be easily confused with fine-art prints, or even gallery-ready sculptures. It is disrupting and beautiful, and eye-opening for many to the alarming threat that this waste is imposing on our environment. Her website, palstic-ocean.net is being built now. Very soon it will be a place to purchase prints of her work and host resources regarding plastic pollution.
She was kind enough to answer a few questions, and I have borrowed images from her Instagram Account, which you can (you SHOULD!) follow H E R E
Her Facebook page can be found H E R E
Where do you do your clean-ups?
Most of the cleanups I do around Cape Town and the Western Cape (South Africa). We go regularly on road trips to collectplastic on hidden beaches. Yesterday we went to Witsand, and further out in the blinding white dunes we found so many super brittle bottles, run down by the erosion of the sand and the wind. Falling apart when I picked them up. At the moment we are collecting the objects that are still recognizable for an exhibition our beach collections. The show is called "Finders Keepers" and opens September 7th at the HNI (New Institute Museum) in Rotterdam.
Wherever I am, I go to beaches to collect plastic. I also ask people to collect and send me their finds so I can make a work out of it. I just made “Kick” of a bottle from Okinawa Japan. And there is a package on the way from Portugal.
How long have you been doing beach cleanups?
I started 4 years ago, when my family and I decided to live near the beach in Cape Town.
I have been travelling back and forth for work between Amsterdam and Cape Town.
We walk our doggy on the beach- and that is how it started.
What sparked the idea of turning found plastic into works of art?
As a photographer I obviously wanted to take photographs, and document my finds. When I first started doing that, it often looked grubby, dirty and actually shocking. I started looking for a way to tell the story in a less confronting way. I was looking at the beautiful colors of the old plastics. I started creating compositions on the beach. Only much later, in November of 2016, that I startedto photograph the plastic I brought home on the colored back drops.
I this way it was still confronting, all that is spit out by the ocean, but in a aesthetic way. It conflicts with each other.
Each piece comes across very sculptural... some are very pretty,
others are more more raw, but all of the images are so striking. What
do you do with the pieces after you shoot them?
I keep them in a small, old nursery next to our house. At firs,t I just put the round shape or medium odd shapes or the flat unrecognizable shapes back in the boxes where they fit in, after photographing them. But now I put them in a separate bag so I keep the items of the composition together.
How has the reaction been to your work? What kind of attention have
you received, and is it making the impact that you hoped for?
When I started posting them on Instagram, I got so many nice comments. People also kept on asking me if they can buy the prints. So I made a plan: We build the website plastic-ocean.net and will use the site as a gallery where one can buy a print. We ship world wide. Plastic Ocean is there to make people aware in a subtle way, of things you can do yourself to leave as little footprint behind as possible. Reduce, reuse and recycle. Just small changes in your life can make a big difference.
Reactions have been very good so far but we are only in the beginning of it I think. Step by step.
Do you have a background in fine art?
I studied at the Royal Academy in The Hague, The Netherlands.
As I child I was always looking down at the ground I walked on, searching for little rocks and shells. I started developing my own filmand printing my pictures in the darkroom when I was 14 years old. I was not so good in drawing so photography was the way to express my self.
You are working on your website, plastic-ocean.net. Can you describe what will be on the site? When will it launch?
Selling the art-prints for small prices so basically everybody is able to purchase one and have one on the wall. The idea is the more people see it and talk about the plastic pollution the more attention it gets. The website will show a limited internet edition which can be purchased and wil be sent to you!
It launches in a few weeks.
Can you share a few bizarre things you have collected from your clean-ups?
A whole chair in a lagoon of a Nature Reserve, and once we saw someone dragging a dead body out of the ocean.