Art, Greenspace January 23, 2012 By Jordan Sayle


Bao Steel #8, Shanghai , 2005 Edward Burtynsky Photography

title80 Industrial Revelation
Think of the seven manmade wonders of the world, the list that originally included the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the Colossus of Rhodes. Each creation was magnificent in its own way – each a monument to the uniquely human capacity we have to alter the land around us at an astonishing scale.
     Now consider the photographs of Edward Burtynsky and the entirely different form of sweeping change they document. Whereas the pyramids at Giza are a celebrated symbol of the engineering feats of an ancient era, Burtynsky shows us the large-scale constructions of today, like the mounds of coal that power China’s Bao Steel factory outside of Shanghai. In contrast to those earlier pyramids, there’s a less exalted feeling conveyed by the sooty heaps that feed the burgeoning Chinese city’s relentless appetite for construction materials. The picture casts some doubt on the glory of our achievements, given the ecological price revealed. Yet the impact of such a representation is likely more complex.
     The photographer tells PLANET that the motivation behind his work is in large part to shed new light on our perceptions of the ever-changing places we inhabit: “I’m interested in how the medium of photography can help us see the world anew – to take the perceived ‘mundane world’ and move it into forms that challenge conventional notions of our world and landscape,” he says.


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