Edward Burtynsky is one of a generation of photographers who seek to portray the visible outcomes of a globalized economy and humankind’s impact on environments around the world. He has achieved global recognition with his large-scale photographs and project-based monographs, such as Quarries, Oil, and Water, all of which have resulted in popular touring exhibitions and, in the case of Water, a feature-length documentary film entitled Watermark. However, while Burtynsky’s global standing is without question, no comprehensive retrospective of his career to date exists.
Edited and curated by William A. Ewing, Edward Burtynsky: Essential Elements provides an overview of Burtynsky’s work across four decades, including 140 photographs of both iconic and previously unpublished images.
It conceives of Burtynsky’s oeuvre as five free-flowing sections that provide a sense of both his visual language and his exploration of the dilemmas at the heart of our globalized world. Each of the five sections is interleaved with a selection of texts from previous publications and articles on Burtynsky that work in concert with the photographs to provide a complete understanding of Burtynsky’s view of the world.
With an introduction by William A. Ewing and an essay by Joshua Schuster, this book provides both an entirely new way of seeing Burtynsky’s work for those who are already familiar with it as well as an accessible introduction for those encountering his photographs for the first time.
In the introduction to his monograph „Oil“ Burtynsky states: „When I first started photographing industry it was out of awe at what we as a species were up to. Our achievements became a source of infinite possibilities.
But time goes on, and that flush of wonder began to turn. The car that I drove cross-country began to represent not only freedom, but something much more conflicted. I began to think about oil itself; as both the source of energy that makes everything possible, and as a source of dread, for its ongoing endangerment of our habitat.“
This approach provides a sense of both his visual language and his exploration of the dilemmas at the heart of globalization. „Essential Elements“, published by Thames & Hudson, follows Burtynskys thoughts through decades of his carreer and provide a full understanding of this extraordinary photographer’s view of the world.