Edward Burtynsky Shipbreaking #13, Chittagong, Bangladesh, 2000 © Edward Burtynsky Courtesy Nicholas Metivier, Toronto/ Flowers, London
London is fortunate to have a crash course in the epic photography project of Edward Burtynsky at the Photographer’s Gallery and the London Festival of Photography
Anyone who was recently “wowed” by Oil, the Edward Burtynsky show at The Photographers’ Gallery will be marking their diaries for June 19. As part of the London Photography Festival Tate Modern are showing Jennifer Baichwal’s award-winning documentary on the Canadian photographer, whose epic photography visualises our relationship to energy.
Burtynsky’s photography collects shapes. He has the eye of a graphic designer/sociologist/land artist, his images explore how we redesign our landscape, our urban spaces according to our energy needs.
Planet Earth in Burtynsky’s lens has been remoulded and reconstructed, with rubber, the architecture of signage and the hypnotic concrete vectors of mega-highways.
In his images, highways, and even people, are distribution systems for oil, a kind of Energy info-graphic which collapse in the chaos if its own feedback loops.
Pastoral isolated landscapes become canvases for the piping that redraws the landscape, grafting new patterns onto the natural world.
And then there are the glowing temples, the sources of energy transformation, industrial cathedrals built to collect, refine and purify energy,
Burtynsky’s work is the opposite of oil production. Whereas oil production and distribution is about extraction, drilling down and the waste that follows from that, Burtynsky’s photography is about surfaces, recycling brutal information into images that attract, seduce and probe our dependence on unsustainable sources of our material well-being.
The Edward Burtynsky show at The Photographers’ Gallery in London until July 1
Edward Burtynsky Manufactured Landscapes, a film by Jennifer Baichwal is on at the London Festival of Photography on June 19
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