Edward Burtynsky

Edward Burtynsky, OC (born February 22, 1955) is a Canadian photographer and artist known for his large-format photographs of industrial landscapes. 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.

Exploring the Residual Landscape

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.

Ed Burtynsky website

Oil  2009

His series Oil (2009) resolves an epiphany he had in 1997, when he realised just how tightly connected all of our global activity was to petrol and its raw material – oil.

The monograph is divided into three sections:

  • images of extraction and refinement;
  • the consumption of oil and motor culture;
  •  abandoned ‘oilfields run dry’ and motor vehicles of all descriptions resigned to huge scrap heaps.

The images within Oil  evoke a terrifying sense of the sublime. It is within the third section that the images have their most potent effect, for instance seemingly endless rows of impotent, rusting fighter jets in Arizona, or a channel cutting through a canyon of stacked worn car tyres in California. Some of the most striking images are those made at the Chittagong ship breakers in Bangladesh. The proportions of the structures that the workers pick apart, almost by hand, are awesome, and just as affecting are the horrendous conditions in which they work. Although not overtly critical in any explicitly rhetorical sense (i.e. like Kennard’s montages), it is impossible to read Burtynsky’s position as anything but one of grave concern for our consumption of this valuable substance.

Some images in Burtynsky’s Oil can be interpreted from different perspectives: great stacks of compressed oil drums or bits of car parts might speak of excess and consumption but, whilst they refer to manufacturing in a past tense, these are also the raw materials for current industries, ready to be melted down and turned into new things.

China

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.

Burtynsky discussing his work made in China

Other work

Wikipedia

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. Burtynsky recalls playing by theWelland 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.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. In the early ’70s, Burtynsky found work in printing and he started night classes in photography, later enrolling at the Ryerson Polytechnical Institute.

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.

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.

 

Photographic series

  • 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

Video: Manufactured Landscapes

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.

Video: Watermark

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

 

Technique

Most of Burtynsky’s exhibited photography (pre 2007) was taken with a large format field camera on large 4×5-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.

The Long Now Foundation

In July 2008 Burtynsky delivered a seminar for the Long Now Foundation entitled “The 10,000 year Gallery”. 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.

 

Nadav Kander

Kander’s website (flash based)

Nadav Kander (born December 1, 1961) is a London-based photographer, artist and director, known for his portraiture and landscapes.

Kander was born in Tel Aviv, Israel. His father flew Boeing 707s for El-Al but lost his eye and was unable to continue flying. His parents decided to start again in South Africa and moved to Johannesburg in 1963. Kander began taking pictures when he was 13 on a Pentax camera. He states the pictures that he took then and until he was 17, although unaccomplished, have the same sense of quiet and unease that is part of his work today. After being drafted into the South African Air Force, Kander worked in a darkroom printing aerial photographs. It was there he became certain he wanted to be a Photographer. He moved to London in 1986, where he still resides with his wife Nicole and their three children.

 Yangtze – The Long River (2010)

Kander is best known for his Yangtze – The Long River series, for which he earned the Prix Pictet Prize. See images

Kander uses the course of the Yangtze as a strategy to travel through the hugely diverse topography and geography of China. Kander made several voyages along the course of China’s Yangtze River, travelling upstream from mouth to source over a period of three years.

The actual river features prominently. Using the river as a metaphor the journey begins at the coastal estuary, where thousands of ships leave and enter each day, and moves past renowned suicide bridges, coal mines and the largest dam in the world – the Three Gorges Dam. Further inland we encounter Chongqing – the fastest-growing urban centre on the planet. Kander never photographed further than twenty miles from the river itself. In the shadow of epic construction projects we see workers, fishermen, swimmers and a man washing his motorbike in the river. Dense architecture gives way to mountains in the upper reaches towards the river’s Tibetan source – a sparsely populated area where the stream is mostly broken ice and just ankle deep. The photographs are dominated by immense architectural structures where humans are shown as small in their environment. Figures are dwarfed by landscapes of half completed bridges and colossal Western-style apartment blocks that are rapidly replacing traditional Chinese low-rise buildings and houseboats.

In Kander’s images, we are also confronted with a terrifying reality: this time it is not the feral landscape that startles us, but the bleak facts about man’s unstoppability. Kander manages to communicate a sense of its epic scale, and also the environmental impact the habitations along its banks are having upon the climate more generally. His murky, smog-filled scenes are unashamedly value-laden – to show how Kander feels China is losing its roots.

His working method: he does not plan everything in advance. But uses the photographic process as a means of discovering more and more what resonates with him. He went back to China 5 times, taking fewer but more focused pictures each time.

Other works

In 2010- 2012 Kander photographed a series of nudes – Bodies. 6 Women. 1 Man – in his London studio. Coated in white marble dust and set against the void of the photographer’s studio the subjects serve as a study of the human condition.

Rooted in an interest in the ‘aesthetics of destruction’ Kander’s most recent project Dust explores the vestiges of the Cold War through the radioactive ruins of secret cities on the border between Kazakhstan and Russia. Will Self has said These images do not make beautiful what is not, they ask of us that we repurpose ourselves to accept a new order of both the beautiful and the real.

On 18 January 2009 Kander had 52 full colour portraits published in one issue of The New York Times Magazine. These portraits were of the people surrounding US President Barack Obama, from Joe Biden (Vice President) toEugene Kang (Special Assistant to The President). This is the largest portfolio of work by the same photographer The New York Times Magazine has showcased in one single issue.[3]

In July 2012 Kander exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in London with a series of portraits celebrating London’s hosting of the 2012 Summer Olympics. In 2014 Nadav was among the 18 photographers chosen to be a part of Constructing Worlds: Photography and Architecture in the Modern Age, an exhibition at the Barbican Centre in London, and toured, which explored the ability of architectural photography to reveal wider truths about our society.

Kander is a Trustee of the The Lowry. He is represented by Flowers Gallery – London, M97 Gallery – Shanghai, Blindspot Gallery – Hong Kong and Camera Work Photographie – Berlin.

Publications

John Thomson

edited from Wikipedia article

Google images

John Thomson (14 June 1837 – 29 September 1921) was a pioneering Scottish photographer, geographer and traveller. He was an accomplished photographer in many areas: landscapes, portraiture, street-photography, architectural photography. He was one of the first photographers to travel to the Far East, documenting the people, landscapes and artifacts of eastern cultures for his Victorian audience.  He was however more concerned with the socio-economic situation of the people whose land he visited than landscape as a subject in  itself (Jeffrey, 1981, p. 64).

On his return home, his pioneering work documenting the social conditions of the street  is regarded as a classic instance of social documentary which laid the foundations for photojournalism.  He went on to become a portrait photographer of High Society in Mayfair, gaining the Royal Warrant in 1881. His publishing activities mark him out as an innovator in combining photography with the printed word.

The son of William Thomson, a tobacco spinner and retail trader, and his wife Isabella, Thomson was born the eighth of nine children in Edinburgh.  After his schooling in the early 1850s, he was apprenticed to a local optical and scientific instrument manufacturer, thought to be James Mackay Bryson. During this time, Thomson learned the principles of photography and completed his apprenticeship around 1858. In 1861 he became a member of the Royal Scottish Society of Arts.

South East Asia 1862-1872: Singapore, Malaya, Sumatra, Siam, Cambodia and China

Singapore

In April 1862, Thomson left Edinburgh for Singapore to join his older brother William, a watchmaker and photographer, beginning a ten-year period spent travelling around the Far East. Initially, he established a joint business with William to manufacture marine chronometers and optical and nautical instruments. He also established a photographic studio in Singapore, taking portraits of European merchants, and he developed an interest in local peoples and places. He travelled extensively throughout the mainland territories of Malaya and the island of Sumatra, exploring the villages and photographing the native peoples and their activities.

Siam and Cambodia

After visiting Ceylon and India from October to November 1864 to document the destruction caused by a recent cyclone, Thomson sold his Singapore studio and moved to Siam. After arrival in Bangkok in September 1865, Thomson undertook a series of photographs of the King of Siam and other senior members of the royal court and government.

 Prea Sat Ling Poun, Angkor Wat, 1865.

Inspired by Henri Mouhot’s account of the rediscovery of the ancient cities of Angkor in the Cambodian jungle, Thomson embarked on what would become the first of his major photographic expeditions. He set off in January 1866 with his translator H. G. Kennedy, a British Consular official in Bangkok, who saved Thomson’s life when he contracted jungle fever en route. The pair spent two weeks at Angkor, where Thomson extensively documented the vast site, producing some of the earliest photographs of what is today a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Thomson then moved on to Phnom Penh and took photographs of the King of Cambodia and other members of the Cambodian Royal Family, before travelling on to Saigon. From there he stayed in Bangkok briefly, before returning to Britain in May or June in 1866.

While back home, Thomson lectured extensively to the British Association and published his photographs of Siam and Cambodia. He became a member of the Royal Ethnological Society of London and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in 1866, and published his first book, The Antiquities of Cambodia, in early 1867.

There have however been accusations of plagiarism. In 2001 Phiphat Phongraphiphon, a Thai independent researcher in historical photography, published claims that Thomson plagiarised works by Thai court photographer Khun Sunthornsathitsalak (Christian name: Francis Chit) and published them as his own. Evidence to Phiphat’s claims include an analysis of a photograph in which the temple Wat Rajapradit, which was built before Thomson arrived in Bangkok, is missing.

Travels in China 1868-1872

Island Pagoda, about 1871, from the album, Foochow and the River Min

 

 

Images from Travels in China



After a year in Britain, Thomson again felt the desire to return to the Far East. He returned to Singapore in July 1867, before moving to Saigon for three months and finally settling in Hong Kong in 1868. He established a studio in the Commercial Bank building, and spent the next four years photographing the people of China and recording the diversity of Chinese culture.

Thomson travelled extensively throughout China, from the southern trading ports of Hong Kong and Canton to the cities of Peking and Shanghai, to the Great Wall in the north, and deep into central China. From 1870 to 1871 he visited the Fukien region, travelling up the Min River by boat with the American Protestant missionary Reverend Justus Doolittle, and then visited Amoy and Swatow.

He went on to visit the island of Formosa with the missionary Dr. James Laidlaw Maxwell, landing first in Takao in early April 1871. The pair visited the capital, Taiwanfu, before travelling on to the aboriginal villages on the west plains of the island. After leaving Formosa, Thomson spent the next three months travelling 3,000 miles up the Yangtze River, reaching Hupeh and Szechuan.

Thomson’s travels in China were often perilous, as he visited remote, almost unpopulated regions far inland. Most of the people he encountered had never seen a Westerner or camera before. His expeditions were also especially challenging because he had to transport his bulky wooden camera, many large, fragile glass plates, and potentially explosive chemicals. He photographed in a wide variety of conditions and often had to improvise because chemicals were difficult to acquire. His subject matter varied enormously: from humble beggars and street people to Mandarins, Princes and senior government officials; from remote monasteries to Imperial Palaces; from simple rural villages to magnificent landscapes.

Street Life in London

Thomson returned to England in 1872, settling in Brixton, London and, apart from a final photographic journey to Cyprus in 1878, Thomson never left again. Over the coming years he proceeded to lecture and publish, presenting the results of his travels in the Far East. His publications started initially in monthly magazines and were followed by a series of large, lavishly illustrated photographic books. He wrote extensively on photography, contributing many articles to photographic journals such as the British Journal of Photography. He also translated and edited Gaston Tissandier’s 1876 History and Handbook of Photography, which became a standard reference work.
In London, Thomson renewed his acquaintance with Adolphe Smith, a radical journalist whom he had met at the Royal Geographical Society in 1866. Together they collaborated in producing the monthly magazine, Street Life in London, from 1876 to 1877. The project documented in photographs and text the lives of the street people of London, establishing social documentary photography as an early type of photojournalism. The series of photographs was later published in book form in 1878.

The Crawlers, London, 1876-1877

 

 

 

 

He was elected a member of the Photographic Society, later the Royal Photographic Society, on 11 November 1879. With his reputation as an important photographer well established, Thomson opened a portrait studio in Buckingham Palace Road in 1879, later moving it to Mayfair. In 1881 he was appointed photographer to the British Royal Family by Queen Victoria, and his later work concentrated on studio portraiture of the rich and famous of High Society, giving him a comfortable living. From January 1886 he began instructing explorers at the Royal Geographical Society in the use of photography to document their travels.

After retiring from his commercial studio in 1910, Thomson spent most of his time back in Edinburgh, although he continued to write papers for the Royal Geographical Society on the uses of photography. He died of a heart attack in 1921 at the age of 84. In recognition of his work, one of the peaks of Mount Kenya was named “Point Thomson”.

A large collection of his glass negatives was donated to the Wellcome Library.  Some of Thomson’s work may be seen at the Royal Geographical Society’s headquarters in London.

Selected publications

  • China Through the Lens of John Thomson 1868 -1872, River Books 2010.
  • The antiquities of Cambodia, 1867
  • Views on the North River, 1870.
  • Foochow and the River Min, 1873.
  • Illustrations of China and its people, 1873-1874 [1]
  • Street life in London, 1878
  • Through Cyprus with a camera in the autumn of 1878, 1879
  • Through China with a Camera,[7] 1898