Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky classifies the predominant theme of his work as “nature transformed through industry.” And his fantastic series of aquatic aerial photographs, dubbed Water, perfectly exemplifies that.
At its core, the series is about humanity’s ever-growing thirst (both literal and metaphorical), and how it is impacting our planet.
From beautiful shots of the massive BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, to photographs of once-lush landscapes forever deprived of water, to images of “aquaculture” — places where the land is being reshaped to suit our need to grow crops like rice and seaweed — every photo in the series falls into its own section.
“Water is intermittently introduced as a victim, a partner, a protagonist, a lure, a source, an end, a threat and a pleasure,” describes Russell Lord, Curator of Photographs at NOMA. “Water is also often completely absent from the pictures. Burtynsky instead focusses on the visual and physical effects of the lack of water, giving its absence an even more powerful presence.”
The project — the single biggest collection Burtynsky has ever produced — took the photographer to 10 countries over the course of 5 years. Here’s what he came back with:
The aerial view gives Burtynsky a unique vantage point on “how we shape our landscapes based on water’s availability and what we do to [it] once we redirect it.” And the oil spill photos in particular juxtapose a newsworthy event with an artistic style that lends an entirely new perspective on the man-made disaster many of us heard so much about.
To browse through the entire series or find out more about one of Canada’s most celebrated photographers, head over to Burtysnky’s website by clicking here.
Image credits: Photos © Edward Burtynsky, courtesy Nicholas Metiver Gallery, Toronto / Howard Greenberg, Gallery and Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery, New York