Flotsam & Jetsam forms a unique dialog about the use, condition, and fragility of our marine environment by looking at discarded objects connected to the sea; things I have collected from the shorelines of San Francisco Bay that have been either left behind or washed ashore with the ebb and flow of the tides. 

This project is about discovery and it calls attention to cycles; things we possess and then discard, what the Bay leaves behind with the rising and falling of the sea, and the repetitive process of finding, organizing and revitalizing such debris.

The transformation of this detritus to art appeals to me, as I feel like a child on a spirited treasure hunt, conveying value to what is commonly overlooked. I search out these cast-off items, take them home, scan them, and then organize them into groups that appeal to me.

I like how these objects take on new context and importance in the form I have adopted. Isolated against a black background, each group harmonizes a color, texture, content, or shape, with each item exposed for closer inspection and conjecture about its particular history and story.

As a series, this collection serves as a broader anthology of our time, place, and who we are and it brings me closer to defining my home and the particularities of life surrounded by water; themes prevalent throughout my art. I am pleased too that, in a small way, my beachcombing calls attention to the vulnerability of this important watershed and helps cleanse the local shorelines for others to enjoy. 

I am also excited about how this series challenges the traditional definition of a photograph. Made without a camera, film, or photographic paper. I am drawn to the physicality of the scanning process and the immediacy and tactile nature this form embraces. Looking at these photographs, I feel as though I am under the object itself: in contact with it, touching it, sensing its weight, volume and texture, and I find that visceral quality curious and thrilling.

— Peter Tonningsen

Editor's note: We were delighted to open our inbox and discover Peter Tonningsen's work, submitted to Lens Culture via our submissions process.