Edward Burtynsky

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Edward Burtynsky
Ed Burtynsky (38148537).jpg
Burtynsky in 2005
Born (1955-02-22) February 22, 1955 (age 61)
St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada
Nationality Canadian
Occupation photographer, artist
Awards Officer of the Order of Canada, TED Prize, The Outreach award at the Rencontres d’Arles, The Flying Elephant Fellowship, Applied Arts Magazine book award(s), the Roloff Beny Book award.[1]
Website www.edwardburtynsky.com

Edward Burtynsky, OC (born February 22, 1955) is a Canadian photographer and artist known for his large-format photographs of industrial landscapes. His work is housed in more than 50 museums including the Guggenheim Museum, the National Gallery of Canada, and the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.[2]

Early life[edit]

Burtynsky was born in St. Catharines, Ontario. His parents had immigrated to Canada in 1951 from Ukraine and his father found work on the production line at the local General Motors plant.[3] Burtynsky recalls playing by the Welland Canal and watching ships pass through the locks. When he was 11, his father purchased a darkroom, including cameras and instruction manuals, from a widow whose late husband practiced amateur photography.[4] With his father, Burtynsky learned how to make black-and-white photographic prints and together with his older sister established a small business taking portraits at the local Ukrainian center.[3] In the early '70s, Burtynsky found work in printing and he started night classes in photography, later enrolling at the Ryerson Polytechnical Institute.[5]


From the mid-1970s to early 1980s, Burtynsky formally studied graphic arts and photography. He obtained a diploma in graphic arts from Niagara College in Welland, Ontario, in 1976, and a BAA in Photographic Arts (Media Studies Program) from Ryerson Polytechnical Institute in Toronto, Ontario, in 1982.[6][7]


Burtynsky's most famous photographs are sweeping views of landscapes altered by industry: mine tailings, quarries, scrap piles. The grand, awe-inspiring beauty of his images is often in tension with the compromised environments they depict. He has made several excursions to China to photograph that country's industrial emergence, and construction of one of the world's largest engineering projects, the Three Gorges Dam.

His early influences include Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Eadweard Muybridge, and Carleton Watkins, whose prints he saw at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the early 1980s. Another group whose body of work shares similar themes and photographic approaches to Burtynsky's work are the photographers who were involved in the exhibition New Topographics.


Most of Burtynsky's exhibited photography (pre 2007) was taken with a large format field camera on large 4x5-inch sheet film and developed into high-resolution, large-dimension prints of various sizes and editions ranging from 18 x 22 inches to 60 x 80 inches. He often positions himself at high-vantage points over the landscape using elevated platforms, the natural topography, and more currently helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. Burtynsky describes the act of taking a photograph in terms of "The Contemplated Moment", evoking and in contrast to, "The Decisive Moment" of Henri Cartier-Bresson. In 2007 he began using a high-resolution digital camera.

Photographic series[edit]

1983 – 1985 Breaking Ground: Mines, Railcuts and Homesteads, Canada, USA

1991 – 1992 Vermont Quarries, USA

1997 – 1999 Urban Mines: Metal Recycling, Canada Tire Piles, USA

1993 – Carrara Quarries, Italy

1995 – 1996 Tailings, Canada

1999 - 2010 Oil Canada, China, Azerbaijan, USA

2000 – Makrana Quarries, India

2000 – 2001 Shipbreaking, Bangladesh

2004 – 2006 China

2006 – Iberia Quarries, Portugal

2007 – Australian Mines, Western Australia

2009 – 2013 Water Canada, USA, Mexico, Europe, Asia, Iceland, India

Other projects[edit]

Burtynsky chaired the board of directors of the online sustainability magazine Worldchanging until it was taken over by Architecture for Humanity in September 2011.[8] He sits on the board of CONTACT, Toronto's international festival of photography.[9]

Toronto Image Works[edit]

In 1985 Burtynsky established Toronto Image Works, a facility that offers darkroom rentals, equipment use and presently offers digital new-media courses. In 1986 the facility opened a gallery space which displays the work of local and international artists. He is currently president of Toronto Image Works.[10]

Manufactured Landscapes[edit]

In 2006, Burtynsky was the subject of the documentary film, Manufactured Landscapes, that was shown at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival in the World Cinema Documentary Competition.[11]

The Long Now Foundation[edit]

In July 2008 Burtynsky delivered a seminar for the Long Now Foundation entitled "The 10,000 year Gallery".[12] The foundation promotes very long-term thinking and is managing various projects including the Clock of the Long Now, which is a clock designed to run for 10,000 years. Burtynsky was invited by clock designer Danny Hillis to contribute to the Long Now project, and Burtynsky proposed a gallery to accompany the clock. In his seminar, he suggested that a gallery of photographs which captured the essence of their time, like the cave paintings at Lascaux, could be curated annually and then taken down and stored. He outlined his research into a carbon-transfer process for printing photographs that would use inert stone pigments suspended in a hardened gelatine colloid and printed onto thick watercolour paper. He believes that these photographs would persist over the 10,000 year time-frame when stored away from moisture.


Burtynsky and Jennifer Baichwal, who was his director on the 2006 documentary Manufactured Landscapes, are co-directors of the 2013 documentary film, Watermark.[13] The film is part of his five-year project Water focusing on the way water is used and managed. [14]


In April 2006 Burtynsky was named Officer of the Order of Canada. He is also the recipient of four honorary doctorates: Laws, from Mt. Allison University, Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada; in Laws, from Queen's University, Kingston; in Fine Arts in Photography Study from Ryerson University, Toronto; and in Fine Arts, from Montserrat College of Art, Boston. He was awarded the TED Prize in 2005. He is a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.[15] Burtynsky is the 2013 recipient of the Geological Society of America President's Medal.[16]


Exhibition Catalogues

  • Pentimento Catalogue of the exhibition held at Flowers Central 2010 London.


  • Burtynsky, E., Fishman, T. and Kingwell, M. (2005) Burtynsky: Oil. Steidl, Germany.
  • Burtynsky, E., Fishman, T., Kingwell, M. and Mayers, M. (2005) Burtynsky: Oil. Steidl, Germany.
  • Burtynsky, E., Mayers, M. and Mitchell, M. (2007) Edward Burtynsky: Quarries. Steidl, Germany.
  • Burtynsky, E., and Davis W. (2013) Burtynsky: Water. Steidl, Germany.
  • Pauli, L. (2009) Manufactured Landscapes: The Photography of Edward Burtynsky. Yale University Press.


  1. ^ Edward Burtynsky Biography
  2. ^ Edward Burtynsky Gallery site
  3. ^ a b Pauli 2003, p. 11
  4. ^ Richler 2003, p. 95
  5. ^ Torosian 2003, p. 47
  6. ^ Pauli 2003, 11.
  7. ^ "Edward Burtynsky". Edward Burtynsky. Retrieved 2011-11-10. 
  8. ^ "Worldchanging Board". Worldchanging.Com. Retrieved 2011-11-10. 
  9. ^ "About Us". Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival. 
  10. ^ "TIW : Toronto Image Works : Home". Toronto Image Works. Retrieved 2011-11-10. 
  11. ^ "mercury films inc. - documentary". Mercuryfilms.ca. Retrieved 2011-11-10. 
  12. ^ "Edward Burtynsky: The 10,000-year Gallery". The Long Now. Retrieved 2011-11-10. 
  13. ^ "Talented veterans, emerging directors make TIFF's Canadian lineup". CBC News. 7 August 2013. Retrieved 13 August 2013. 
  14. ^ Clive Cookson (September 27, 2013). "Edward Burtynsky". Financial Times. Retrieved September 29, 2013. 
  15. ^ "Members since 1880". Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. Retrieved 11 September 2013. 
  16. ^ http://www.geosociety.org/awards/index.htm#pres


  • Edward Burtynsky: Oil. Essays by Paul Roth, Michael Mitchell, and William E. Rees. Göttingen, Germany: Steidl/Corcoran. 2009. ISBN 978-3-86521-943-5.
  • Edward Burtynsky: Quarries. Essay by Michael Mitchell, Göttingen, Germany: Steidl. 2007. ISBN 978-3-86521-456-0 (Deutscher Fotobuch Preis 2008)
  • Edward Burtynsky: China. Essays by Ted Fishman, Mark Kingwell, Marc Mayer, and the artist. Göttingen, Germany: Steidl. 2005. ISBN 978-3-86521-130-9.
  • Pauli, Lori. Manufactured Landscapes: The Photographs of Edward Burtynsky. Essays by Mark Haworth-Booth and Kenneth Baker, interview by Michael Torosian. Ottawa, Canada: National Gallery of Canada, in association with Yale University Press, New Haven and London. 2003. ISBN 0-300-09943-6.
  • Granta, This overheating world. The Magazine of New Writing, 83. Fall 2003. Noah Richler: The Evidence of Man, Edward Burtynsky. p. 95.
  • Before the Flood. Essay by Gary Michael Dault. 2003
  • "Industrial China’s Ravaging of Nature, Made Disturbingly Sublime," New York Times, MANOHLA DARGIS, June 20, 2007.

External links[edit]