‘We come from nature. If we destroy nature we destroy ourselves’ – so predicts one of the world’s most accomplished fine art photographers, Canadian-born Edward Burtynsky. Hasselblad shooter Edward (61) has spent over four decades photographing the outcomes of an increasingly globalised economy and the impact humankind is having on environments across the planet. Xiaolangdi Dam #1, Yellow River, Henan Province, China 2011 – Courtesy of Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto
Now he and the rest of the world await the fall launch of his stunning new book, Essential Elements, comprising 144 photographs of both iconic and previously unpublished images. As one of the world’s most acclaimed contemporary art photographers, Edward’s depictions of industrial landscapes adorn the walls of over sixty major museums around the world, including the National Gallery of Canada, the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in California.
A winner of the coveted TED Prize in 2005, the Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts, the Outreach award at the Rencontres d’Arles, the Roloff Berry book award and the Rogers best Canadian Film Award, Edward’s work regularly features in leading periodicals, including Harper’s magazine, The Smithsonian Magazine, National Geographic and the New York Times. He was the subject of the multi-award winning film Manufactured Landscapes and co-directed Watermark in 2013. He is now working on his next film, Anthropocene, which he is co-directing with Jennifer Baichwal. Oil Spill #13, Mississippi Delta, Gulf of Mexico June 24, 2010 – Courtesy of Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto Salt Pans #7, Little Rann of Kutch, Gujarat, India 2016 – Courtesy of Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto
He says: “A key theme in my work is nature transformed through industry. My images are meant as metaphors for the dilemma of modern existence. They search for dialogue between attraction and repulsion, seduction and fear. We are drawn by desire – a chance for good living, yet we are consciously, or unconsciously, aware that the world suffers for our success. Our dependence on nature to provide materials for our consumption and our concern for the health of our planet sets us an uneasy contradiction.” He adds: “I am constantly searching for subjects rich in detail and scale, yet open in their meaning. Recycling yards, mine tailings, quarries and refineries are all places outside our normal experience, yet we partake of their output on a daily basis.”