Beauty and Waste

This is part of our special feature on Water in Europe and the World.

Through the works of South Korean photographer Boomoon, and multimedia artist Alejandro Durán, this art series illustrates both the phenomenal beauty of water and the pollution that has washed upon our shores at the hands of humankind. Capturing the movement of waterfalls in Iceland, Boomoon’s photographs focus on the “ephemeral gures ceaselessly appearing on the screen of water,” while Durán’s installations of plastic turn pollution into art, exposing the dire reality of our current environmental state. 

–Kayla Maiuri for EuropeNow




Skogar #323, 2015

Skogar #5084, 2015

Skogar #622, 2015

Untitled #2892, 2016

Untitled #7391, 2017

Untitled #7605, 2017

Untitled #5580, 2016


At first, Boomoon had serious doubts about the motif-based photographs. Water has an elemental and ubiquitous presence without any fixed form. It adapts to its surroundings while at the same time displaying an overwhelming power as it takes the shape of the sea, waterfalls, and downpours. Capturing the restless movement of water with a camera provides him with a freedom of the vision and the interpretation, but it throws him into a maze of images too. It triggers a reflection on becoming and extinction, on reality and illusion.

The series Skogar and Falling Water were made at Skogafoss in Iceland and they couldn’t have been made in any other place. Yet they are less the representations of the place than outcomes of Boomoon’s photographic action synchronized with all elements constituting the place. In Skogar, he engaged his whole body in experiencing the power of the vertical fall and the horizontal flow, and worked on what was happening at the junction of these two fundamental axes. He wanted to visualize the sensation of the place’s secret meaning. In Falling Water, the focus was rather on the phenomenon of fall as well as on the ephemeral figures ceaselessly appearing on the screen of water. Here the photographs serve to reveal the invisible and fantastic aspects of the motif.


Boomoon (b.1955) lives and works in Gangwon Province, South Korea. Since the 1980’s he has been engaging with the natural landscape as a means of self-reflection, producing large format photographs of vast expanses of sea, sky and land. Devoid of human presence, the central emphasis of his work is the experience in immersion of natural phenomenon and the representation of its presence. He referred to this activity as “photographic respiration,” a tripartite relationship which corresponds to a dynamic exchange between the photographer, a moment in the world and the image being made. Boomoon has exhibited internationally, including numerous solo exhibitions in South Korea, Japan, Paris, London, Cologne and New York. 


Alejandro Duran


Derrame (Spill), 2010

Cocos (Coconuts), 2011

Rayo (Ray), 2011

Viento de Jade (Jade Wind), 2011

Algas (Algae), 2013

Mar (Sea), 2013


Washed Up is an environmental installation and photography project that transforms the international debris washing up on Mexico’s Caribbean coast into aesthetic yet disquieting works. Over the course of this project Durán has identified plastic waste from fifty-eight nations and territories on six continents that have washed ashore along the coast of Sian Ka’an, Mexico’s largest federally protected reserve and an UNESCO World Heritage site. He uses this international debris to create color-based, site-specific sculptures that conflate the hand of man and nature. At times he distributes the objects the way the waves would; at other times, the plastic mimics algae, roots, rivers, or fruit, reflecting the infiltration of plastics into the natural environment.

More than creating a surreal or fantastical landscape, these installations mirror the reality of our current environmental predicament. The resulting photo series depicts a new form of colonization by consumerism, where even undeveloped land is not safe from the far-reaching impact of our culture of disposable products. The alchemy of Washed Up lies not only in transforming a trashed landscape, but in the project’s potential to raise awareness and change our relationship to consumption and waste.


Born in Mexico City in 1974, Alejandro Durán is a multimedia artist now based in Brooklyn, New York. Through photography, installation and video, his work examines the fraught intersections of man and nature, particularly revealing the pervasive impact of consumer culture on the natural world. He received an MA in Teaching from Tufts University in 1999 and an MFA in poetry from the New School for Social Research in 2001. Durán received En Foco’s New Works Award 2011 and Art With Me Tulum’s Social Impact Award 2018. He was included in the 2012 Bronx Biennial of Latin American Art, was nominated for the 2014, 2015 and 2016 Prix Pictet and the 2016 Prix Thun for Art and Ethics. He has exhibited his work at the Galería Octavio Paz at the Mexican consulate in New York and was Hunter College’s Artist-in-Residence for 2014-2015. Internationally, his work has been featured at Fotografie Forum Frankfurt in Germany and the Mt. Rokko International Photography Festival in Japan. 



Nicole Shea ran CenterArts Gallery in Newburgh from 2009-2012 and later incorporated her arts experience into the leadership training at West Point. In 2015, she founded a large-scale sculpture walk outside the gates of West Point, which she has been curating together with the founding members of Collaborative Concepts in a community effort to revitalize the area via the arts. She is also Executive Editor of EuropeNow and Director of the Council for European Studies.

Kayla Maiuri is the associate editor of EuropeNow and the editorial and publications associate at the Council for European Studies. She holds an MFA in fiction from Columbia University, where she served as fiction editor of Columbia: A Journal of Literature & Art. Her debut novel is forthcoming from Riverhead Books.

Published on December 11, 2018.


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