Ed Burtynsky on the Gulf Oil Spill


Images from metiviergallery: Oil Spill #4, Oil Skimming Boat near Ground Zero, May 12, 2010, chromogenic print

The Canadian photographer, Ed Burtynsky, has been photographing the impact of industrialization on the environment for the last 30 years. His huge colour photographs depict the toll that environmental disasters are taking on human beings and the landscape.

In May 2010 Burtynsky travelled to the Gulf of Mexico to photograph the oil spill. The series of 9 photos on display at a Toronto gallery show, in brilliant and chilling colour, the extent of the spill and the efforts to get at the fire.

fire boats photo

Oil Spill #5, Q4000 Drilling Platform, May 12, 2010, chromogenic print

Burtynsky has explored the theme of oil for more than a decade, from the Alberta oil sands to Baku, Azerbaijan, one of the earliest sites of oil discovery. Given his intense interest in the area, he was an obvious person to photograph the ongoing disaster. He flew over the spill in a helicopter and took aerial shots of the burning Deepwater Horizon rig where the crisis originated.

In an interview about his visit there, he said that "there was an incredibly massive PR machine at work there (at the spill site), trying to contain the whole perception of it, and the severity of it. There are a lot of questions about the degree of the damage, like when you're up in the plane, you can't see it."

The media could fly three thousand feet above the site. He said "the three thousand foot ceiling is massive, it's hundreds of square miles. You can fly lower on the very perimeter, but there's almost nothing going on there. So there are a lot of questions about what's going on and how much is verifiable or not."

Why does he do it? Because "the truth will be outed, I believe. Maybe. But it may actually start to slip away from consciousness if the visuals don't come. They've proven that if the visuals aren't there, then people forget about it."

rip tide phto

Oil Spill #9, Oil Slick at Rip Tide, May 12, 2010, chromogenic print

Many of his other images about oil are gathered in a travelling exhibition Burtynsky: OIL which will open in Edmonton, Alberta, then Bad Homburg in Germany and Toronto in 2011.

More on Ed Burtynsky
Edward Burtynsky's Devastating Oil
The TH Interview: Ed Burtynsky and "Manufactured Landscapes
Edward Burtynsky on the Alberta Tar Sands

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