Edward Burtynsky – Industrial China wobbled the Earth’s Orbit

18 09 2011

Just after the 15 days it took for the Chinese to fill the reservoir behind the Three Gorges dam in 2003, astronomers detected a wobble in the earth’s orbit. They attributed the wobble directly to the massive displacement of water from the Yangzi River.

Edward Burtynsky noted this inconceivable fact during his lecture that officially opened a exhibit of his photography at Weber State University the night of 16 Septmember 2011.

To him the Industrial Revolution was unbolted from the west and reassembled in China. And now China and the rest of the world are carrying on the new industrial revolution on an unprecedented scale. Burtynsky went on to say he hoped his photographs are poignant illustrations of more “wobbles” our industrialized civlization has wrought all over the planet. “I invite the viewer to contemplate our industrial progress.”

Burtynsky said he reached a significant turning point in his work with his 1983 photograph of the Bingham copper mine located near Salt Lake City. He noted that man, instead of being dwarfed by and inspired by nature, had reversed that notion with an “inversion of the sublime.”  “We became a rogue species,” he said.

Fittingly, his image of the Bingham copper mine is the first photograph one sees upon entry into his exhibit. After 27 years the Bingham mine is a lot deeper and poignant and so is the Burtsynsky photographic message. He said he believes peak oil and limited water supply will finally slow global industrialization. Since he has done in-depth work on oil he showed his latest work on water use.

The affable artist answered questions from an enthralled, standing-room-only crowd. Since the beginning of  his photographic work in the late 1970’s and Burtynsky said that he had come a long way from the solitary days when it was just his car and camera and him in the quarries of Vermont. He casually alluded to being arrested more than once as part of making his photographs in China. “I never lost any film,” he said, an impressive fete since he worked entirely with a massive 8×10 view camera on a tripod, an easy target for soldiers to snatch or otherwise damage.

These days he works with an entire crew that allows him to more efficiently concentrate on making photographs instead of the intense preparation and logistics of his world travel. He commonly works 16-20 hour days for weeks at a time while on a project.

In his 50’s now, Burtzynsky also said, “I’m happy to have the someone else carrying my stuff.” To which a young and eager member of the audience asked, “Are there any openings for someone to carry your stuff?”  Burtzynsky said seemed please to entertain the question knowing he was reaching a new generation with his work. “Give me your contact information,” he answered.

Burtynsky’s work is on display at Weber State University in Ogden until November 29, 2011 when the exhibit travels to the University of Wyoming in Laramie. A documentary about Burzynsky called “Manufactured Landscapes” is on DVD.

Ed Burtynsky talks to a few members of the audience before his lecture.

Burtynsky presented new images of his work on the subject of water. This one of greenhouses in Spain.




One response

19 09 2011

Very nicely written. You sure you’re a photographer and not a writer?

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