Edward Burtynsky is a renowned Canadian fine art / documentary photographer whose work documents man’s devastating effect on our world. His very large photographs of sweeping landscapes are stunningly beautiful but also somewhat uncomfortable to look at.
In his photos I can see a clear influence from people like Ansel Adams whose landscapes, particularly of Yosemite National Park are breathtaking.
His latest work, simply entitled Water, launched in 2013 explores our relationship with water, our attempts to harness its power and the scale of our effect on the landscape. Most of Burtynsky’s photographs are taken from high vantage points, giving a ‘not usually seen view of the landscape.
I found several aspects particularly striking. This image of houses that have been built into a lake disturbs me somewhat. The sky reflecting in the water looks like oil and says something to me about the way humans are rapidly multiplying but water is a finite resource that we take for granted and don’t respect and pour so much of our waste into it.
There is a market for waterfront properties that we are exploiting in this building project. I don’t doubt that there is tremendous skill that goes into a building project like this but to what effect. Burtynsky could be criticised for being overly political with his photography or lecturing viewers about things they already know, after all who hasn’t heard of global warming? But I think it is the scale of damage that we fail to comprehend and that Burtynsky highlights so well in these images.
Other pictures in this series include photographs of the Gulf of Mexico taken while BP’s Deepwater Horizon well was pouring oil into the sea, the affects of drought on the landscape and how agriculture and water are so closely linked.
In Burtynsky’s Quarries collection, this image of a stone quarry in Rajasthan, India, not only highlights how we are changing our physical landscape but is more worrying when you find out the lack of safety precautions at the site and the number of people who die in places like this on a monthly basis.
Other projects look at the effect of our need for oil, mining, ship breaking and mass consumerism and manufacturing. More of his work can be seen at www.edwardburtynsky.com
I’m really interested to see how Burtynsky views his work and whether his images actually make a difference and change the way we use our environment. In these films Burtynsky talks about his work, his methods and his thoughts behind his projects.