Edward Burtynsky is photographing humanity’s industrial sculpturing of planet earth.
Words by Caitlin Hennessy | Images by Edward Burtynsky
The world’s leading archaeologists who have previously dug up some of the most intricate and astounding excavations are now discovering a new wave of ‘technofosils.’ Rock incrusted mobile phones and plastic bags have become one of the scary realities of a new generation which scientists have dubbed ‘The Anthropocene Era,’ the time in which humans have become the primary cause of permanent change to planet earth.
The project aims to get the viewers to a place where they question their relationship to the Earth and other forms of life.
Inspired by these phenomena Edward Burtynsky set out to photograph every human-altered landscape he came across. The project spanned over five years and 20 countries, travelling to the end of the world in an effort to capture some of humanity’s biggest man-made exhibits. Edward hoped to put a visual component to the facts that scientists have been producing since the mid-20th century. Data concerning increased carbon dioxide; rising sea levels, deforestation and mass extinction are not new notions and yet little had been done about changing these increases. Through visual props, the paper stats come to life and are evidently hard to ignore. The project aims to get the viewers to a place where they question their relationship to the Earth and other forms of life.
In order to create this space where the images provide such shocking evidence, Edward Burtynsky and his team of filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier set out on a journey to capture the most ecologically damaged parts of the world. Using drones, helicopters and fixed-wing aeroplanes the team collected images of deforestation by Palm Oil Plantations in Borneo, the creation of mass highways in California, leftover mine scraps in Florida and 15 feet tall landfills in Nairobi. All of which are maddening evidence of humanity’s quest for industrial supremacy.
Edward hopes the interactive project will pose more questions than it answers and create a drive for change within the viewers.
The image gives a visual component to a story of ecological sabotage and a village society affected by the human pursuit of oil.
Amongst the photographs of ecological destruction stands a striking image depicting the oil bunkers in Niger Delta. The image gives a visual component to a story of ecological sabotage and a village society affected by the human pursuit of oil. In the past few years’ villagers have begun to create their own DIY distilleries, pumping tons of waste back into the ground they live on. In pursuit of a better life financially, these people are committing themselves to a life lived in a wasteland of toxicity. The evidence is explicit in images of waterways filled with liquid that swirls in iridescent colours indicative of the Milky Way.
Shooting at no higher than seven hundred feet, the images Edward produces are a series of beautiful colours and contrasting patterns, as if to resemble a puzzle or magic eye poster where the more pieces you locate, the more you understand how the whole image summarizes one bigger idea. Edward hopes the interactive project will pose more questions than it answers and create a drive for change within the viewers.
The Anthropocene Project will premier at the Toronto Film Festival on the 28th September.
Edward Burtynsky is a photographer from Canada whose work can be seen in galleries across the world. He is known for his large-format photographs of industrialisation in our world.