Edward Burtynsky - Manufactured Landscapes

Many years ago, when I first decided to venture out there, and conduct my first photographic workshop, I set it up in Torres del Paine national park in Chilean patagonia. My clients included two Canadians who spent their time talking to me about many photographers. One of their idols was Edward Burtynsky. I'll admit that at that point in my photography, I'd never heard of him.

But the world is full of talented individuals.

After the workshop, I parted company with my Canadian clients, and went home for a long earned rest. A few weeks passed, and one morning the door bell rang. The post man stood outside my door holding a large cardboard carton. I took it inside and wondered what might be inside. Upon opening the box, I found a copy of 'Manufactured Landscapes' but Edward Burtynsky. It had been sent to me by my Canadian clients, I'm sure, as a response to our conversations during the Patagonian workshop. The gesture blew me away because I realised that what we had been discussing during the trip had resonated with them in such a way that they felt inclined to send me a copy of one of Canada's most prominent photographers.

Also included inside the box, was a copy of Pico Iyer's short story about visiting Iceland. I had discussed Iceland with my Canadian clients, and in particular - Mary, had felt a connection with my stories of the country, and the short story of Iceland by Iyer, and had decided to include a photocopy of the story for me. It was a great read and it reminded me very much of my first time visiting Iceland in 2004 (I now own a copy of Pico Iyer's book of short stories about his travels - thanks to Mary).

Anyway, I digress. I'd been sent a present! And that present was the result of some engaging conversations during the workshop in Patagonia.

I wasn't familiar with Burtynsky's work, but when I looked through the finely printed coffee table book, I became very engaged in what I saw. I had no reason to read the text, because contained within the pages were high detail (large format) photographs of mass-scale ecological production / waste management throughout the world. I had simply no idea, for instance, that there exists rivers of molten steal, landscapes of worn out tires, sky rise blocks of mined chalk, all consumables, all on a mass scale, all which could be easily interpreted as some normal landscape, until I looked a little closer and realised that this was all the product of a race that consumes and discards with little or no thought for the finite resources of the planet. Burtynsky was spelling out mass-scale environmental issues simply by using his large format camera to capture the finer details in a massive landscape of consumable, or discarded, material.

This week I dug out Manufactured landscape by Burtynsky. It is an absorbing volume. A large scale coffee table book, beautifully printed, the cover gives the illusion of a natural landscape (I thought lava flows, only to discover that it is a man-made landscape of molten steal)... sometimes we need to look at industrialisation in its rawest form. Landscape photography is not just about capturing the essence of natural beauty in the word, it can also be a valid way of throwing up a mirror and exposing ourselves to who we really are, and how we treat our environment.

Highly recommended.

You can, of course, get it from Beyond Words here.