Manufactured Landscapes

Last month Jennifer Baichwal’s documentary Manufactured Landscapes, a portrait of Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky won the Toronto-City Award for the Best Canadian Feature Film.

The film follows Burtynsky to China as he travels the country photographing the evidence and effects of that country’s massive industrial revolution. Sites such as the Three Gorges Dam, which is bigger by 50% than any other dam in the world and displaced over a million people, factory floors over a kilometer long, and the breathtaking scale of Shanghai’s urban renewal are subjects for his lens and our motion picture camera.

Burtynsky is well know for his large-scale photographs of “manufactured landscapes” – quarries, recycling yards, factories, mines, dams. He photographs civilization’s materials and debris, but in a way people describe as “stunning” or “beautiful,” and so raises all kinds of questions about ethics and aesthetics without trying to easily answer them.

Burtynsky describes his work as following:
…Nature transformed through industry is a predominant theme in my work. I set course to intersect with a contemporary view of the great ages of man; from stone, to minerals, oil, transportation, silicon, and so on. To make these ideas visible I search for subjects that are rich in detail and scale yet open in their meaning. Recycling yards, mine tailings, quarries and refineries are all places that are outside of our normal experience, yet we partake of their output on a daily basis…

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