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NaturePhotography

#aerial#Edward Burtynsky#landscape#mining

Spanning Four Decades, Edward Burtynsky’s Photos Document the Devastating Impacts of Industry

February 5, 2024

Grace Ebert

an aerial view of blue, yellow, and green ponds on the otherwise brown landscape

Salinas #2, Cádiz, Spain (2013). Image courtesy of Flowers Gallery, London. All images © Edward Burtynsky, shared with permission

“I have spent over 40 years bearing witness to the ways in which modern civilization has dramatically transformed our planet,” says the renowned photographer Edward Burtynsky (previously). From the salt ponds of Spain to the eerie tunnels of Russia’s potash mines, Burtynsky has traveled the globe for the last four decades documenting the indelible impacts of industry.

Opening this month at Saatchi Gallery in London is Extraction/Abstraction, the largest survey of his work to date. Comprising 94 images and 13 large-scale murals, the exhibition showcases the disastrous effects of human consumption from distant, often aerial perspectives that at first glance, appear as alluring, colorful compositions. A closer study reveals the horrific nature of many of the photos as they capture a brilliant orange river of nickel waste or concentric trenches etched into the Turkish landscape to mitigate erosion.

Despite the scale of the subject matter, Burtynsky chronicles the profound magnitude of consumption that can be difficult to comprehend through facts and figures alone. By pairing photos of environmental destruction with those of immense natural beauty, he also emphasizes the threat of loss and reminds us how much we collectively rely on the planet for survival.

Extraction/Abstraction is on view from February 14 to May 6. Burtynsky will also open an exhibition of new works on February 28 at Flowers Gallery in London. Until then, find more of his photos on Instagram.

an abstract aerial image of blue water running across the gray landscape

Thjorsá River #1, Iceland (2012). Image courtesy of Flowers Gallery, London

concentric circles coil around a mountainous landscape

Erosion Control #2, Yesilhisar, of Central Anatolia, Türkiye, (2022)

a bright orange river flows through a dark barren landscape

Nickel Tailings #34, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada (1996). Image courtesy of Flowers Gallery, London

lines etched into a mountainous landscape in gray and reddish brown

Erosion #3, Nallıhan, Ankara of Province, Türkiye, (2022)

a crane operates above dark mounds of coal

Coal Terminal #1, Kooragang of Coal Terminal, Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia, (2022)

a dense forest with logs downed and covered in moss

Cathedral Grove #1, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada (2017)

a dark image of a cave like tunnel with machinery on a track in the distance

Uralkali Potash Mine #1, Berezniki, Russia (2017). Image courtesy of Flowers Gallery, London

a bisected image of a white landscape on the bottom and brown on the top. at the intersection and spanning upward are gold flecks

Salt Lakes #2, North-East Tuz Lake, Gölyazı, Konya, Türkiye, (2022)

#aerial#Edward Burtynsky#landscape#mining

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