Actually seeing a photograph by Edward Burtynsky is an astonishing experience; they are HUGE. While I have linked to many of his photographs on TreeHugger, even seeing a photo on his site blown up to fill my 24" mac monitor doesn't do it justice. Like his photos, the published book of his quarry photographs that I received as a gift for Christmas, is huge, 12" x 15". That's not as big as I see them on my monitor, but the quality is so much better, the colours so much brighter.
Burtynsky's artist statement makes an important point:
We are surrounded by all kinds of consumer goods, yet we are profoundly detached from the sources of those things. Our lifestyles are make possible by industries all around the world, but we take them for granted, as background to our experience. I feel that by showing those places that are normally out side our experience, but very much a part of our everyday lives, I can add to our understanding of who we are and what we are doing.
These are very big pictures of very big holes dug all over the world in all kinds of conditions, much of it dug out to make the wallpaper of McMansions, the thin veneer of flooring and countertops you see everywhere. (SeeHow Did Granite Become The Kitchen Counter Standard?)
But it is also an industry that employs thousands of artisans and produces structures and cladding that can last for hundreds of years. Burtynsky doesn't judge, he connects.
Ultimately what I am looking for are interesting places and moments to embody my poetic narrative of the transfigured landscape, the industrial supply line and what that means in our life.
I often wonder about the future of the book in this digital age. After all, almost every photograph in the book can be found on Edward Burtynsky's website here; why bother buying 2.7 kilos of book when you can get it for free online?
Perhaps because it is so beautifully printed in Germany on FSC certified paper. Perhaps because it is edited by Kate Pocock and the late Charles Oberdorf, a wonderful teacher, editor and writer who I had known for years. Perhaps because photos taken in a large format 8"x10" camera and printed on such a large format paper size gives a resolution and scale that just cannot be matched.
Available at Amazon.