Turquoise Bag in a Tree

In the winter of 2003, on the way to my studio, I noticed a plain turquoise carrier bag caught in the branches of a leafless tree in a city centre street. Startling and vibrant against the otherwise colourless Manchester cityscape, the image stuck with me. I photographed it, eventually building up a large collection of similar images.

Plastic carrier bags are a worldwide urban phenomenon, closely linked to the city and its consumer culture. Used once they are frequently deemed functionless and discarded as waste, becoming ubiquitous remnants of urban man's modern way of life. Some bags escape their fate as rubbish only to get caught in the spindly urban trees planted in regimented rows, along city streets. The trees become a magnet for urban detritus, turquoise bags being the most visible. As a reminder of our consumer culture the bags hang there, taking years to decay, acting as an unsettling and melancholic memorial to our excesses.Over the past six years I have taken many images of blue bags caught on the branches of trees. During this time debate has raged about the insustainablity of our current lifestyles, and part of this discussion has been the free distribution of single use plastic carrier bags.  Many people now choose to use a cotton bag, or to purchase the absurdly named 'Bag for Life' offered for a small fee at check outs. Elsewhere some countries have opted for a ban on single use plastic bags. While the UK government has no such plans it seems possible that in future years the plastic bag at the check out may become a thing of the past.

Scientists predict it can take up to 1,000 years for a single plastic bag to degrade, even then the residual chemicals remain in the earth. Though torn and dishevelled, the bag I photographed near my studio in 2003, still clings on. The debate surrounding the banning of plastic carrier bags remains undecided, one thing however is certain. The turquoise bag in the tree is there to stay and will long outlive you or I.

This website is dedicated to turquoise bags in trees everywhere.

Hilary Jack

2009