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Interview with Justine Lagache - the photographer behind new exhibition "Plasticos"

The exhibition has just launched in the Rialto Living Gallery in Palma

The vibrant photographs are visually uplifting while raising awareness of a grim reality. For each of these colourful compositions are made from plastic collected from beach clear ups. In this case, from Costa Rica. 

Our reporter, Emily Benet, caught up with the artist on the opening night of the exhibition.

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I was excited to meet Justine because I share her passion. Since moving to Mallorca three months ago, I've woken up to how much plastic there is in the sea. At a distance, the beaches look picture perfect and the water crystal clear, up close it's a whole other story. 

Justine's first beach clear up took place on a holiday in Mexico five years ago. She saw rubbish on the beach and simply started picking it up. "Travelling so far to escape winter isn't great for the environment," she admits, "so I felt it was important to make a connection with the country I was visiting." Spending time clearing up the beach was her way of readdressing the balance. 

After Mexico, she visited Costa Rica, where she witnessed a huge quantity of plastic coming in with the tide every day. "You feel ashamed when you see it even if it's not your plastic, because you are a part of it," she said. Picking it up made her feel better, made her feel part of a circle. 

It was in Costa Rica that she came across a project to help turtles and met one particular volunteer whose passion and heart really inspired her. An Art director, Justine dealt with the plastic she collected in a creative way, making collages on the beach and photographing them with her phone. Last year she held her first exhibition in a restaurant in Stockholm and raised $2500, which she donated to the turtle project in Costa Rica. 

I ask her what she hopes to achieve with this new exhibition. "Raising awareness is one of the principle aims," she says, "of course raising money too." Once again, Justine will be donating all the money to charity, hoping to help volunteers buy a boat to access the rough Costa Rican coastline where rubbish builds up. "I did look for a turtle project in Mallorca," she says, "but unfortunately couldn't find one!"

Bottle tops, toothbrushes, bits of toys, broken cutlery, lollypop sticks are the protagonists in her bold and quirky work. I couldn't help wondering if the works might be a sad reminder of the state of things and therefore an odd choice of purchase? 

"Everybody who buys a print is helping the turtle project," Barbara Bergman, director of the gallery, explains, "so they get something they like and feel like they are helping too. Not everyone can collect trash on the beach." The original photographs are reasonably priced with three different sizes selling at 50€, 75€ and 100€. 

"What's fantastic is I can be so angry about it and can get on people's nerves with my anger, but by doing this people see how I feel, and they come to understand the situation in a better way," Justine says, animated as she talks about something which has become not just a passion but a way of life. 

Thanks to Justine's connection with Barbara Bergman of Rialto Living that she is now exhibiting in Mallorca. They met working at the same advertising agency in Sweden, their native country, and kept in touch when their paths separated. Justine became an Art Director, with clients including the WWF, and Barbara moved to Mallorca to work at Rialto.  

How does she like Mallorca? "I've fallen in love with it," she says, smiling broadly. When I press her for a particular place, she says Palma. She hasn't been on any beach clear ups, but after I tell her about my own experience, she says she will!

The pollution of our seas is an upsetting subject, but Justine is hopeful. "We are in a transitional period and we have to change," she says. "Wherever you go you can pick up rubbish. You might have more work to do here or somewhere like Costa Rica, but there's always something to do, wherever you are."

I left Rialto gallery feeling positive and determined to make a difference.   

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The exhibition is running for a month from 20th August above the Rialto Living Shop, Monday to Saturday from 10.00 to 20.30

Follow more from Emily on her website and in her blog.


Location: Palma de Mallorca



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