Industrial landscapes: The photography of Edward Burtynsky

Posted by Ian on Apr 13, 2009 in blog | No Comments

Oxford Tire Pile No. 7, Westley, California, 1999

Over the last 25 years, Edward Burtynsky has been creating images that humble, inspire, frighten and appal. Traveling the world to capture images of the landscapes of industrial agency, Burtynsky produces images with both are arresting and beautiful for their sheer scale as well as invoications of ecological awareness:

Nature transformed through industry is a predominant theme in my work. I set course to intersect with a contemporary view of the great ages of man; from stone, to minerals, oil, transportation, silicon, and so on. To make these ideas visible I search for subjects that are rich in detail and scale yet open in their meaning. Recycling yards, mine tailings, quarries and refineries are all places that are outside of our normal experience, yet we partake of their output on a daily basis.

These images are meant as metaphors to the dilemma of our modern existence; they search for a dialogue between attraction and repulsion, seduction and fear. We are drawn by desire – a chance at good living, yet we are consciously or unconsciously aware that the world is suffering for our success. Our dependence on nature to provide the materials for our consumption and our concern for the health of our planet sets us into an uneasy contradiction. For me, these images function as reflecting pools of our times.

Burtynsky’s work is an intriguing mobilisation of the sublime and romantic depictions of landscapes. His industrial landscapes have an organice and formulaic beauty of their own. Revealing an uncomfortable yet unavoidable truth of our modern lifestyles, the photogrphs of Burtynsky offer a somewhat ambiguous celebration of human agency in its industrail form as it is re-enmeshed into the changing fabric of our world.

C. N. Track No. 1, Skihist Provincial Park, British Columbia, 1985

Carrara Marble Quaries No. 25, Carrara, Italy, 1993

Rock of Ages No. 4, Abandoned Section, Adam-Pirie Quarry, Barre, Vermont, 1991

Oil Fields No. 1, Belridge, Califronia, 2001

Inco Abandoned Mine Shaft No. 13, Crean Hill Mine, Sudbury, Ontario, 1984

Ferrous Bushling No. 6, Hamilton, Ontaria, 1997

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