Photographer portrays swimmers in the oil spill region

142129_extralarge.jpg Photographer Jane Fulton Alt's latest series is called Crude Awakening. She writes on her web site:
Living on the shores of Lake Michigan, I am acutely aware of the disastrous toll the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has taken on all forms of life, especially as our beaches opened to the 2010 swimming season. This environmental, social and economic catastrophe highlights a much larger problem that has inflicted untold suffering as we exploit the earth's resources worldwide.

We are all responsible for leading lives that create demand for unsustainable energy. We are also all responsible for the solution and we must work together to protect the balance of life.

Photographer's web site [via NotCot]


  1. How many barrels of oil are implicit in that baby bump?

    The mind reels with thoughts of our swift, imminent collective doom.

  2. Someone please tell me that that’s chocolate syrup, and that the artist didn’t actually coat those people in oil and BP chemical dispersant. Please?

  3. My first thought was that if smoking and drinking are bad for a fetus, how bad would that disgusting crude be, and is that lady absolutely insane.

    1. You understand that these are staged photos created for shock value and that none of those people actually went swimming in crude oil, right?

      1. Shock as in, “I’m shocked they’d trivialize such a terrifyingly real incident, and so mawkishly at that”?

          1. Excepting, of course, banal artists, who seem to lack any critical skills whatsoever, saving those of reflexive outrage and stagy social commentary.

          2. Me, I just ignore the posts I find banal. But I can’t think of any better example of “stagy social commentary” than pinning the blame for our oil economy on an unborn fetus.

          3. I think it’s called hyperbole?

            The target of my ironic ire is the creators of said baby bump, which seems to have been noted by at least one, generous and sensitive, reader above. Obviously, they’re guilty of only a tiny drop of our communal petrogasmpocalypse: irony and hyperbole =/= literal and accurate reportage or policy prescription.

          4. So the intent of your original post is “how presumptuous of these people to make any social commentary on the oil spill when they are human beings, capable of making more human beings, and thus themselves culpable.”

            Got it!

          5. No, you don’t have it.

            At the risk of translating hyperbole to more nuanced speech–something that risks traducing whatever the message of the joke was into something more literal, and thus false–the statement was simply my way of grounding cheap and easy comments on the spill (like the photo above) in the realities of our oil economy, energy consumption, consumption of other precious resources, our planet’s massive overpopulation, etc. The point wasn’t to legislate the morality of the couple’s having children: it was to place their showy, ineffectual posturing against the very real debits they’re incurring with those lovable little tykes they’ve bred and will raise. I mean, why to you think BP’s going after all that oil in the first place? Why is oil so profitable, so ubiquitous? What are our responsibilities for this? Etc. Pretty simple, really. Again, jokes + hyperbole =/= lengthy commentary + reasoned policy.

            Regarding the morality of action, of being a human subject who tries to do good while being aware of the inevitability of doing harm, and of the necessity for self-awareness, self-critique, and self-forgiveness, read the Bhagavad-Gita or something: some good stuff, and stuff I’ve thought a lot about, and don’t really wish to rehearse with you, if you’ll please.

      2. That’ll teach me to work while trying to read blogs- reading comprehension goes down the drain. I also missed that the Jesus-stained water park wasn’t Canada, but was Candia.

        Although, the stuff further down the link is even more cheesy. I wonder if these pictures are what the shower scene from Psycho would look like if filmed in colour.

  4. The water behind all of the subjects sure looks pretty oil-free to me.

    It looks like someone spilled chocolate syrup all over them and then rubbed it in.

  5. Reminds me of the Hershey’s syrup in Les Krims “The Incredible Case of the Stack O’ Wheat Murders”

  6. Before reading the caption I thought “that’s not the gulf that’s Lake Michigan”
    And behold, it be.
    Oily pregger yuppies from the north shore. WTF.

  7. If you really think these people took a dip in the Sea of BP (TM!), you’re a doom-brained idjit…

    1. “If you really think these people took a dip in the Sea of BP (TM!), you’re a doom-brained idjit…”

      I’m a doom-brained idjit for thinking people might take a dip in a Sea of BP, when there’s actual video of people taking a dip in a Sea of BP:

      Kid with oil stuck on her! Destin Beach, Fl. June 23rd, 2010:

      Yeah, I’m just a doom-brained idjit. No one would ever go play in the oil, I’m just that dumb I guess. Where would I ever get such an idea?

  8. “You got chocolate in my Lake Michigan!”
    “You got Lake Michigan on my chocolate!”

  9. It is often difficult to successfully express our emotional response to current events in a literate way. Rarely are great works of art produced in times of crisis. This isn’t to say that hasn’t been done or even to discourage the attempt. But right now I am finding documentary photography to be the most effective means of communicating the horrible situation in the gulf.

  10. Wait, what do people on the shore of Lake Michigan covered in chocolate syrup have to do with the tragedy in the gulf? Looks to me like someone is trying to cash in on the disaster.

  11. Interesting idea I guess, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. I would think if someone swam in water covered with crude, it just MIGHT get on the backs of your legs.

  12. And Guernica probably wasn’t even painted in that city either.

    What are artists coming to, all representing concepts and ideas and stuff.

  13. will the proceeds of the sale of this “art”, go to some form of helping clean the spill foundation?

    1. I would like it better if they were depicted as doing typical beach activities oblivious to the oil.

  14. I lived in Houston as a child (early 90s). My brother and I both owned two swimsuits: one for the pool and another for the ocean. When we went swimming off of Galveston island, we would inevitably return to the beach with at least one oil spot on our trunks.

  15. How much do you want to bet that they washed the sugary goo off by jumping in the lake before hopping back in their Land Rover to return to their ‘burb.

    Tdawwg’s comment #1 has it exactly right. Well done T.

  16. Don’t you just hate it when you go to the beach and the hot sun melts your ice cream and you get all messy.

  17. Wow, Michael Moore could have taken those photos. I notice that she has oil on the front of her legs, but not on the back. That is some pretty selectively-sticking oil. Hey, look at the finger marks in the oil on her arm. Are those from the invisible hand?

  18. Their suits aren’t wet. They must have gotten oily before they even got to Lake Michigan.

  19. Thank god there are such innovative artists shedding light on obscure tragedies that might have otherwise slipped under the radar. Think of all the people who were completely unaware that oil had spilled who are now informed of the situation. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve brought it up and people were like, “what? what oil spill? and you say that oil spills are… bad?”. Hopefully this truly revolutionary art will raise public awareness of a situation that the mainstream media won’t touch with a 10 foot pole for fear of giving the impression that they are sensationalist fear-mongering disaster pornographers.

  20. I see a reality show in the pipeline “Hershey Shore” about a family of crazy cannibal hillbillies in Michigan.
    It’s like The Hills Have Eyes meets Ferris Bueller.

  21. How dare she create art about a current event when she could be posting ineffectual comments on popular blogs.

    1. How dare she create art that comments ineffectually about a current event when she could be posting ineffectual comments on popular blogs.

      Fixed that for you.

  22. Wow, these shots of the chocolaty WASP family out at the lake really hammer home the reality of it all in a way that nothing else has. I guess this oil spill is kind of a big deal, huh?

    Sorry for the snark. Maybe the artist’s intentions are pure and not at all carpet-baggery, but the execution is wack. You wanna have an impact? GO THERE and take pictures of some real people and creatures whose real lives are really devastated. This feels like rank opportunism.

    (Plus, an actual fist carved out of ham would be more subtle, with a higher degree of craftsmanship.)

    1. @ BrotherPower,

      Fully agree.

      A cheesy shoot at best. And the pouty, smug faces? Please!!!

      This shoot reminds me of the teary-eyed Native Chief in the 1970’s pollution public service ads.

  23. This is some posting.

    We are faced with banal comments like “We must work together to protect the balance of life”? coupled with poorly executed “art”?

    Man I’m just reeling with GUILT!

  24. The concept is very good and I appreciate the social commentary, but the execution is subpar…mediocre at best. Dont get me wrong, the quality of the shots seems adequate enough, including the lighting, etc. But the cheesiness starts with these folks looking into the camera lens with faux-oil strategically placed on face and body (note the lack of oil on the woman’s hair). Like the Fashion/PETA ads of yesteryear, the corny factor is too prevalent, although some of the photographers in PETA ads actually wanted the Cheese factor. But this, em…is just a nice try. “C-“

  25. I guess lazy execution is better than none at all, but come on – could they at least make it look like it wasn’t so obviously rubbed on

  26. Those people did not swim. They had oil or fake oil smeared on them just for the photo shoot.

    And if I were a two-year-old who grew up to find out my parents had smeared me with oil for a photograph, I’d happily punch them both in the mouth.

    1. >>Those people did not swim. They had oil or fake oil smeared on them just for the photo shoot.

      Guess someone’d have to get up pretty oily to fool you, huh? Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk.

  27. Am I the only one that is reminded of the movie, “The Road”, when I look at this picture?

  28. This photo is so bad, I created an account just to post a comment.

    It is truly terrible. Crystal clear ocean, sailboat, golden sands and fake oil. It looks like a promo shot for a cheap movie… and even that is an insult to the likes of “Pterodactyl, the movie, 2005”.

    They didn’t even bother to apply the fake oil with any degree of realism, it reminds me of Arnold Schwarzenegger in Commando.

    All that failure and with such an important message to deliver.

  29. Now I’m just thinking about attractive people in bathing suits, covered in chocolate syrup. Probably not what the photographer had in mind.

  30. Terribly stupid and inept photo, from concept to execution.

    Please, everyone, just stop reproducing and 99% of our problems will solve themselves.

    Or, if you must keep crapping out the kids, let’s use every other one to plug the leak.

    1. Actually that would solve 100% of our problems, in the same way that the K-T extinction event ended all the dinosaurs’ problems.

  31. While parts of this thread have deteriorated into a zero-population argument, it’s prudent not to assume a woman with a belly is pregnant. And always smart not to ask.

  32. They’ve both been in the oily water and both just happen to have oil on the cheeks and forehead but not in their eyes.

    What are the chances that random contact with oil would produce a result just like manually applied oil with care taken to not get it in the eyes?

    They are the luckiest two oil slick swimmers ever!

  33. execution aside, just what is it about living on the shores of lake michigan that makes one acutely aware of _anything_ in the gulf?

  34. I wanted to take my summer vacation and go down to the gulf to help out, but they only want trained crisis workers. We have gigantic unemployment, and tons of stimmie moneys, yet no leadership to get any of this stuff done because gov’t rewards institutionalized bureaucrats. I think if we want to help these ‘white people’ (srsly?1?) that are being damaged by katrina2, then we need to look at their values.

  35. Living on the shores of Lake Michigan, I am acutely aware of the disastrous toll the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico…

    I can see Russia from my house!

  36. 1. Yes, the oil is not real.
    2. Yes, it is chocolate.
    3. No, they did not enter the lake to wash it off.
    4. They do live near the shores of Lake Michigan and not the Gulf.
    5. You should read the artist’s statement before commenting.

    janefultonalt dot com

    And, no the artists is not making light of this tragedy, but rather using her photography as a means to depict the devastation happening in other parts of our country.

    1. To Anon *cough*JaneFultonAlt*cough* @#62:

      Jane, no one is saying (I mean literally no one has put forth the opinion) that you’re “making light of this tragedy.”

      We’re simply saying you are trivializing a real catastrophe by being a self-serious hack. That’s what I’m saying, at least. Sorry, it’s harsh, but take the note. Try harder.

      (Maybe five percent of BoingBoing’s readership will get this joke, but I’d rather get an environmental lecture from Culver Billy, fer crissakes!)

      1. This is not Jane Alt, although I am a fan of her work and I witnessed the shoot. I am sorry that you have a cough. Hope it gets better soon.

  37. Are you all f-ing stupid really the person tries to make a point with this and all u guys think is that oh this is funny and jaytkay lulz well fantastic i can really see that this was all wasted on those of you who are like oh this is stupid and “looks like chocolate syrup” dross1260 says “Reminds me of the Hershey’s syrup in Les Krims “The Incredible Case of the Stack O’ Wheat Murders” yeah funny and you all make jokes well joke about this while you all are sitting at home commenting on stupid things that don’t matter and making jokes we are strangling our world and whether you think this is fake or not or that it’s funny i think it’s sad that instead of trying to help u simply make comments that this is stupid. Why don’t you think about all the animals that we’re killing and the destruction that we’re allowing. I am 16 and if you’d like to know I’m doing a project on the effects of oil spills on birds and if you think for one moment that you can leave this planet thinking “oh my children or grandchildren or great grandchildren can deal with it” then shame on you for making our future generations responsible for your mess. why don’t you all get off your computers and actually do something i volunteer my time to work for the better good of not me, not the state, not the country but for the good of all of human kind. Why don’t we all just work as one and find a new way of doing this because if we don’t then we will all have to suffer the consequences. And for the sake of all human kind i would hope that we can work together and stop fighting each other and instead fight our true enemy which is to look and find new ways and not be stuck in the old. Let us move forward and not continue to work toward our own destruction. There are ways and means to fix this if only we work toward it and be drawn to that which will makes us better as a race an era of time. And in the best way to end this i will add 3 quotes; 1st “It is our choices that show who we truly are far more than our abilities” and 2nd “Humans have a knack for choosing precisely the things that are worst for them.” and 3rd “Soon we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.”

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