The Photographic Alphabet: G is for Geography
by Liana DeMasi
We live in a time where most people (unless you are a non-believer who somehow believes climate change isn’t real) are coming to terms with the effects of human existence on our planet. Coming to terms doesn’t always mean being proactive. We go from photographing a tree-lined pond on our hike, to driving home in our gas-filled car, in a paradox of loving our planet while brutally extracting its natural resources to sustain the quality of life that we’ve become accustomed to.
It is easy for us to turn a blind eye to the ramifications of our actions, but on occasion, we come face to face with our demise. Edward Burtynsky photographs industry and nature and shows us the troubling dynamic between the hard work and dedication our industrial enterprises exhibit and the harm we cause the planet by burrowing into it.
Mines, quarries, shipbreaks, oil harvesting--all technologies that are typically associated with smog, pollution, and environmental contamination--are Burtynsky’s focus. He manages to capture these scenes in a way that highlights their beauty while not diminishing the truth about what they represent.
We are struck by the beautiful vastness of a quarry in Italy; however, after a few seconds we realize that we are looking at a part of the world we destroyed. Burtynsky shows us, and gratefully so, the harrowing, yet inescapable codependency between nature and industry.