Canadian photographer Burtynsky has made a life’s work out of documenting landscapes altered or wholly created by human industry. The images are gorgeous, hypnotic, terrifying, and sobering, sometimes all at once. They serve as proof that we can have a profound impact on our own backyards, the implication being that if you string enough profoundly altered backyards together you have a profoundly altered planet and, in all likelihood, profoundly altered natural systems.
From his website:
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.
These images are meant as metaphors to the dilemma of our modern existence; they search for a dialogue between attraction and repulsion, seduction and fear. We are drawn by desire – a chance at good living, yet we are consciously or unconsciously aware that the world is suffering for our success. Our dependence on nature to provide the materials for our consumption and our concern for the health of our planet sets us into an uneasy contradiction. For me, these images function as reflecting pools of our times.