"Andrew Hughes’ photographs of rubbish at the beach speak to this dread. His monumental photographs of the banal relics of our evermore super-sized and disposable lifestyles intimate the hidden depths that lurk beyond the superficial disgust with which beach junk fills us. We are dismayed by the desperate irony that the very beaches we seek out as physically and psychically restorative refuges are as irretrievably polluted as our toxic hinterlands".

Lena Lencek - Author of The Beach: The History of Paradise on Earth

Plastic Scoop

"Very few directors have tackled the complex relationship between environmental issues and digital games. With Plastic Scoop, Andy Hughes makes that connection painfully manifest. By appropriating both the aesthetics of video games and the language of vintage promotional videos and other archival material, à la Adam Curtis, Hughes reminds us that have become aliens to our own planet”.

Matteo Bittanti

Dominant Wave Theory

Dominant Wave Theory

In 1991 Andy Hughes began photographing the plastic waste he observed on the beach, after surfing along the coast of South Wales. Made at beach locations from California, Scotland, Wales and Cornwall between 1999 - 2004, they explore and examine the relationship of beach waste as both an object of visual enquiry and as a reference to the global environmental crisis.


Glastonbury Opus

Glasto Opus explore the seductive depiction of colour and sculptural forms with an underlying narrative that describes the environmental degradation that results from a large festival event, where tens of thousands of people congregate. They attempt to raise questions about wider human behavior and mass consumption.

Gyre: The Plastic Ocean. Anchorage Musuem, Alaska

Andy Hughes, Pam Longobardi, Mark Dion, Karen Larsen and team of scientists investigate the buildup of marine and plastic debris along the Alaskan coast. A unique and worlds first art and science exhibition titled Gyre: The Plastic Ocean, brought the problem of ocean plastic pollution into perspective. The exhibition, book and film explores the complex relationship between humans and the ocean in a contemporary culture of consumption.

Plastika Alaska

'Oceanic expanses have long been perceivable as overdetermined cultural signs in various geographic contexts and historical periods, and today’s fraught rhetoric about this liquid sphere is no less complex and conflicted'.

Extract from the Essay
Ocean Semiosis by Abigail Susik / © 2013 Abigail Susik

Wrecked Matter

Nash Pilgrimage - Paul Nash gave a sense of ‘aliveness’ to everything, even inanimate matter. More than 80 years later Jane Bennet also described in her book Vibrant Matter the basic argument is that everything is alive, interconnected, and in process: not only plants and humans but rocks and air. 


Dedicated page which explores motivation and methodology underpinning Hughes practice. Works from 1989 - 1999 are featured which gives a  insight to his current practice. 


Once used and tossed away, all manner of convenience driven items such as coffee cups, bottled water, sandwich cartons start their life in all habitats and locations from the remotest outpost of human settlements to the urban sprawls of major cities.

Circularity l

The cyclic narrative of the Pacific Gyre is driven by immense oceanic global systems much greater in time span than human industrial processes. Our cognition of the disposal and dispersal of human debris is founded partly by photographic recorded evidence and that of narratives based upon systematic scientific investigation.

Works created for: Project Gyre / The Plastic Ocean.
Anchorage Museum, Alaska, 2014

Circularity ll

“Consider the subtleness of the sea; how its most dreaded creatures glide under water, unapparent for the most part, and treacherously hidden beneath the loveliest tints of azure….. Consider all this; and then turn to this green, gentle , and most docile earth; consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself?”

Herman Melville, Moby-Dick, 1851


In 1990 Andy Hughes discovered an unusual material, it felt and looked like ‘plastic rock’. These forms were integrated in a number of his early photographic works. Some images displayed here were made on 5×4 Fuji Transparency film. They were included in his graduating exhibition at the Royal College of Art, Gulbenkian Gallery, London in 1991. Recently he has re-developed a number of works using collected materials from various locations.


During the last 10 years Hughes has made a series of video art works / small video vignettes. Often just a few minutes or less, these reject a number of standard film conventions by eschewing the typical templates of formulaic narration when thinking about the nature of waste.


These photographs offer an insight into the world of the surf-grom (an under 16 young girl or boy surfer). Andy Hughes’ portrait series of young surfers show his sitters often clad in neoprene, emblazoned with logos and graphic symbols, they seem both vulnerable and confident. Each looks out at us, with all the trappings of modern contemporary life. The current cultural fascination with the beach and surfers as presented in numerous magazines and commercial advertising sits comfortably with the multitude of various picturesque images of the beach and sea with silhouetted surfers against sunsets, breaking waves. Hughes groms are the antithesis of these recurrent tropes.


Hughes works with many NGO's, research groups, academics, writers and scientists. Below are a small selection of recent activities. Please get in touch to discuss your particular project or research topic.

Society and Sea Conference

The Greenwich Maritime Centre (GMC) held its second international conference on the theme ‘Society and the Sea’, September 2018.

“News stories about the ocean and the coasts regularly make the headlines yet paradoxically there are also concerns that sea-blindness is a problem and people are not aware of the fundamental importance of the ocean. The aim of the GMC is to engage multiple stakeholders in an exploration of the value of the ocean and how that can be recognised, communicated and harnessed to contribute to the health, wealth and wellbeing of society. This requires using perspectives and developing partnerships across academia and industry and engaging in creative conversation about the ocean, coasts and their values for sustainable development”. 

Plastic Pornography

A web search for the definition of pornography results in the following explanation; 1) the depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement, 2) material (such as books or photographs) that depicts erotic behavior and is intended to cause sexual excitement, 3) the depiction of acts in a sensational manner so as to arouse a quick intense emotional reaction.

I have been thinking for quite some time about the proliferation of a kind of imagery that also aspires to create ‘intense emotional reactions’, specifically images which intend to ‘raise awareness’ about plastic pollution. I’m thinking about images of turtles trapped in plastic, seabird carcasses displaying ingested plastic waste, floating plastic objects in blue pristine seas, rivers of flowing waste (often observed in some of the world’s poorest regions). There seems to me, an increasing and relentless appetite for such images; millions consume these images through various visual social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. By clicking you ‘like It’ and sharing it to millions of others are you just taking part in another form of pollution? a kind of visual pollution, a pollution of your mind?

Coral Communities

A working trip to Mauritius has cemented and convinced me that there are many people across the world dedicated to the maintenance of spaceship earth as a healthy habitat for all living beings. Hundreds of millions of people rely on coral reefs to provide essential services such as food and coastal protection. These ecosystems also contribute significantly to national economies through sectors such as tourism. Improving the resilience of communities and coral reefs to the anticipated changes as a result of climate change, is therefore an issue of global importance

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