Dear Ocean, Eddy de Azevedo – The bitter poetry of a plastic sea

Eddy De Azevedo's mission with his Dear Ocean, project is to turn a burden into beauty, bringing to the spotlight the sad reality of our oceans.

How did you become an artist?

I trained as a graphic designer. In the days when this profession was taught in the most noble sense of the word. When I finished my studies, I started working for Citizen K magazine. The team, from editors to art directors, was incredible. I met talented people and above all a vision of the profession and a freedom of artistic expression close to the English school. My career then branched off into an agency, EuroRSCG, where for many years I worked with great photographers. Always caring, they transmitted to me the love for and the culture of photography. This is what I do today on a full-time basis.

How would you define your art?

I work with a medium format camera which gives me the possibility to do large prints without loss. Most of the time I try to have a link between my series: the large formats, the uniform presence of colours contribute to the singularity of my photographs. They are supposed to absorb the viewer, forcing him to forget the form by freeing the colours. And vice versa. A vision very much inspired by the American abstract expressionism of the 1950’s. And my work splits in two. There are photographies where the form is the subject and there is a more artistic type of photography where the content is as important as the form: a more committed photography. This is the case for the DEAR OCEAN, project. This long-term project brings together 16 series on a single theme: plastic pollution of the oceans.

Who is your work for?

As my series are very different I also have a very different audience. Something new is happening with the DEAR OCEAN, project. The subject is militant so is the audience. The actions on the ground with the beach clean-ups organised by the BeachCleaners of Ocean52 have led me to meet an audience that is necessarily more alert and more sensitive to the subject. We participate, as you do, in collective collections and awareness-raising workshops. Often, at the end of these days, I create a work based on the collections. I try to develop this educational aspect. In the next exhibition, there will be days dedicated to schools, with workshops.

What are your sources of inspiration?

There are many. I have a fascination, even an obsession, with the Colorfield Movement and in particular Mark Rothko, one of its most famous representatives. But my universe extends over an ocean of influences where I sail on artistic currents as varied as unexpected. It is difficult to find a link between Sophie Calle, Guy Bourdin, Raymond Depardon, Damien Hirst, Murakami, Despentes, Pink Floyd and Bashung and yet these characters (and many others) and their works have shaped the hull  I let myself be carried by.

Can you tell us more about your creative process? How do you start a project and why?

Through DEAR OCEAN, I wanted to have a real contrast between the dramatic reality of plastic pollution and the rather playful treatment of my photographies. The DEAR OCEAN, series was made with objects/waste collected on the beaches of the Landes over the last eight years. It is the waste that guides my work. An association of ideas is born from the found objects and I start the series when I have enough materials to execute it.

Since when have you been interested in the theme of plastic pollution?

Since I moved to the region 15 years ago. But I have been really involved in this theme since 2013. That year, with the Walking My Dog series, I had finally found the lever to link my artistic expression to the environmental cause.

And how did you get the idea for this series?

Thanks to my dog Polok! It’s 2013 and my personal work focuses on series reproducing Mark Rothko’s works using everyday objects. Having Polok and living near the ocean, my days are also punctuated by his excursions. While walking him daily on the beaches, I started to collect rubbish; lighters, corks, cotton buds, nets, fisherman’s gloves, etc. Very colourful waste. Each walk became a creative moment with the collections. The association form & background was made very quickly and the Walking My Dog series was born. Once in the studio with the stocks, I sort them by colour. I make my chromatic compositions flat (scrupulously respecting those of Mark Rohko), I opt for a raw lighting and I shoot in zenithal view. The result is a series of 11 photographs in 93/119cm format for WMD1 and a series of 10 photographs in 90/124cm format for WMD2.

Is there a lesson to be learned from this work? In your opinion, does art have an important place to play in the environmental fight?

Over the years and through unfortunate waste collections, the dark side of the deep blue has grown and other series have completed the project to become DEAR OCEAN, today. Tomorrow, unfortunately, the photographer/beach cleaner that I am will return to the beach. Bruised again. I am only a photographer and I fight with my weapons: my camera, my lenses.

“DEAR OCEAN is a way, my way, to alert young and old people to plastic pollution. Artistic expression is less guilt-inducing, the militant message is more easily conveyed and commitment is more natural. At least I hope so.”

Eddy De Azevedo Artist

The IPCC has just released another alarming study. What is your state of mind, how do you see the future and what do you hope for in the future?

The future? There are so many priority ecological issues! Each issue influences the other: climate change management, environmental protection, biodiversity protection, environmental justice… I just hope that there will not be a hierarchy of issues and that they will be dealt with in a uniform manner, without delay and in a sustainable way. Because every day counts!

Living by the ocean, have you noticed a change in people’s mentality about plastic pollution? Or on the contrary, have you noticed a pollution growing with a stronger and more visible impact on the environment?

One thing is certain: plastic pollution is not decreasing and its impact is more and more visible! Paradoxically, and we are delighted about this, initiatives are multiplying. Local people are becoming much more involved both in the field and in the media, whether digital or written. The increasingly controlled clean-up actions have a considerable influence on daily life and actions. They are educational and help to change mentalities. Many of the participants in these actions say that they will change their consumption habits, that they will reduce or abandon plastic containers, that they will no longer flush their cotton buds down the toilet, etc. The simple fact of seeing the objects/waste they consume washed up and picked up is often a trigger. A small step for man is a big step for the ocean!

Do you have any advice to give to people who want to use art as a protest?

The smallest initiative is good. The intention already shows an awareness and the beginning of a commitment.

What are your next projects?

Protecting the oceans through art is and will remain my challenge. The book DEAR OCEAN, is a project nearing completion and will be available this winter. It will first consist of 3 volumes of all the series on the theme of plastic pollution. And as I will not stop cleaning the beaches, there will be a Volume 4, then a Volume 5… unfortunately.

Discover Eddy de Azevedo’s work from October 20th to November 14th at the Sporting Casino of Hossegor, then in Paris, Lyon, Barcelona or Madrid in 2022.
👉 MUST HAVE : the book DEAR OCEAN, on