SHELF-LIFE illustrates the array of plastic that has washed up on the remote, uninhabited Henderson Island, part of the Pitcairn Islands in the South Pacific – which is one of the largest Marine Protected Areas in the world. 

Mandy Barker’s powerful images shine a light on the rising tide of plastic pollution – which not only pollutes the environment and harms marine life, but also contributes to global greenhouse gas emissions and exacerbates climate change.

The images in this series are inspired by the incredible coral reefs that surround Henderson, represented by the plastic objects that pass over them and threaten their very existence. Each image is titled with a barcode – found on the objects recovered – to emphasise the LIFE of plastic that has travelled from SHELF to SHELF.

The impact of Barker’s work has been recognised by numerous international awards and the awareness raised has been lauded by the likes of Sir David Attenborough. A personal handwritten letter from Sir David to Barker reads “I hope your work does its job in raising an awareness of the cause we both care so much about. With renewed wonder and best wishes.”

About the Artist

Mandy Barker says, “The aim of my work is to engage with and stimulate an emotional response in the viewer by combining a contradiction between initial aesthetic attraction along with the subsequent message of awareness.”

Mandy Barker is an international award-winning photographer whose work involving marine plastic debris has received global recognition for more than 10 years. Working with scientists, she aims to raise awareness about plastic pollution in the world's oceans, highlighting the harmful effect on marine life and ourselves – ultimately leading the viewer to take action.

In June 2019 Barker took part in the ‘Henderson Island Plastic Pollution Expedition’ which has been awarded the title of an ‘Explorers Club Flag Expedition’. With only 3 - 5 expeditions per year recognised in this way - previous others having included the Apollo 11 Space Mission, and the dive to Challenger Deep - this significant achievement included recording data as well as photographing marine plastic pollution, has now become part of the archives, accessible to other modern-day explorers and scholars.

Barker's work has been published in more than 50 different countries and she is a recipient of the 2018 National Geographic Society Grant for Research and Exploration. Barker is a member of the Union of Concerned Photographers (UCP), which is dedicated to using the power of imagery to underline the urgency of environmental concerns.

▶ Mandy Barker website

British High Commission New Zealand on SHELF LIFE

Iona Thomas, British High Commissioner to New Zealand and Governor of the Pitcairn Islands, says she believes exhibition-goers may be inspired to rethink their relationship with plastic.

"This exhibition is a great example of how we can use art to raise awareness about global environmental threats and to help bring about positive change."

"The waters around the Pitcairn Islands contain an exceptional and fragile marine environment with incredible biodiversity. But as Mandy Barker’s work shows, even this remote and pristine setting is not immune to the impacts of human behaviour and pollution."

"The scale of plastic discovered there on our 2019 expedition and documented in this work is truly shocking. I want to thank Mandy for drawing attention to this important issue and highlighting why protection of our marine environment is so vital – both for the Pitcairn community and the rest of the world."

Auckland Museum

International award-winning British photographer Mandy Barker will bring her exhibition SHELF-LIFE to Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum from November 2021 to February 2022 at the museum’s Te Whei Ao Grand Foyer in partnership with the British Council Aotearoa New Zealand and the Pacific and the British High Commission in New Zealand.

  • Date: 15 November 2021 - 20 February 2022
  • Venue: Te Whei Ao Grand Foyer, Auckland War Memorial Museum 
  • FREE with Museum entry

SHELF-LIFE is part of the Auckland Climate Festival 

See also:


International award-winning British photographer Mandy Barker brings her exhibition SHELF-LIFE to Te Atamira in Queenstown from 30 November 2022 to 24 January 2023 in partnership with the British Council Aotearoa New Zealand and the Pacific and the British High Commission in New Zealand. 

  • Date: 30 November 2022 – 24 January 2023
  • Venue: Te Atamira, WHAKAARI 
  • FREE admission 

See also:

Interview celebrating World Environment Day 2023

The British Council’s Climate Connection is a global initiative, uniting people around the world to meet the climate challenge.

With this year’s World Environment Day (5 June 2023) focus on #BeatPlasticPollution, the Climate Connection spoke with Mandy Barker about the impact of her work, how plastic pollution has affected her and her hopes for the future.

Read the Interview at the Climate Connection website.

Trapped by Plastic film credits

Trapped by Plastic is a film by Anny Tubbs of First Move Productions. Photography and stills by Mandy Barker. All rights reserved. 

For rights and business information of the film, please contact First Move Productions ( and Mandy Barker (

▶ First Move Productions' website

See media stories:

RNZ: Mandy Barker's deceptive pictures of Pitcairn's sea bottom

Stuff: Photographs capture the deadly beauty of plastic pollution

Stuff: Environmental artist Mandy Barker's hauntingly beautiful undersea creatures are actually plastic pollution