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.
Edward Burtynsky's large-scale colour photographs document the many facets of nature as it is transformed through human industry. Exquisitely detailed and exactly rendered, Burtynsky's images strike an intricate balance between a sombre reportage and a powerfully seductive aesthetic. His various series, including shipbreaking yards, urban mines, quarries and industrial refineries, reflect the dilemma between man's desire for prosperity, and the suffering we exact on the environment.
Born in St. Catharines, Ontario in 1955, Burtynsky graduated from Ryerson Polytechnical University in Toronto with a B.A. in Photographic Arts. He was awarded the inaugural TED Prize in 2004, honouring individuals who raise awareness of life in a global context to inspire positive change. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in August 2006, a centrepiece of Canada's Honours System, which recognises a lifetime of outstanding achievement. Burtynsky's photographs are included in the collections of fifteen major museums around the world, including the Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, National Gallery of Canada, Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris and the V&A in London.