The Eerie Beauty of Landscapes Devastated by Industry
Edward Burtynsky documents the environmental effects of oil extraction through striking landscape photography.
Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky’s work speaks for nature that has been exploited by human industry and consumption. Taking photos from cranes, planes, and helicopters, often above areas that are not otherwise accessible, Burtynsky captures a wide view of devastation: oil wells dotted across a vast plain, railroads slicing through forest, polluted streams curving across landscape, abandoned mines where layers and layers have been stripped from the Earth.
Photos copyright Edward Burtynsky courtesy Nicholas Metivier Gallery Toronto / Galerie Ropke Koln / Galerie Springer Berlin
Photo from Burtynskys “Tailings Series” of nickel tailings from ore processing near Sudbury Ontario.
Powerful in their depiction of scale and at the same time aesthetically beautiful in pattern, form, and color, Burtynsky’s photos arouse conflicting emotions. They show the ingenuity of human industry, but evoke despair at its destructive consequence. Both art and photojournalism, they tell an underreported story: Our impact on the planet is huge, and more than we may understand, devastating.
Check out this TED Talk where Burtynsky talks about what inspired him to create an oil landscapes photography series: