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Manufactured Landscapes – Edward Burtynsky

Book review

Tim Parkin

Tim Parkin

Amateur Photographer who plays with big cameras and film when in between digital photographs.

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Originally published in 2003 and now on it's sixth reprint, Manufactured Landscapes is the ideal introduction to Edward Burtynsky's work. Lori Pauli's short biography and review of Burtynsky's work to date provide some excellent historical and contextual background. Tracing the artistic family tree from JW Turner and Caspar Friedrich to Edward Muybridge, Walker Evans, Carleton Watkins, August Sander and more not only places the work in a historic timeline, it also (at least for me) gave me more artists to find out more about such as Margaret Bourke-White and Emmet Gowin.

The second essay by Mark Howarth-Booth traces Burtynsky's participation in the creation of a new version of the Sublime that Burke discussed in his '...the Sublime and the Beautiful [sic]'. This is really interesting as it was my initial reaction to his work that made me think that the ideas of romanticism and when I did a little research I discovered that the German 'Sturm und Drang' (great name!) movement portrayed 'terror and destruction' although at that time mostly of a natural made source such as storms and ship wrecks although Philip James de Loutherbourg's  'Coalbrookdale by Night', included in the book, has many parallels.

Kenneth Baker's final essay looks at the instrinsic stress between Burtynsky's formal and beautiful compositions and the industrial installations and environmental damage they are often made of. Burtynsky's offers very little narrative to support his work, letting the viewer make their own conclusions. The art worlds reaction to beauty makes this approach a dangerous one commercially but the quality and depth of his work cannot be ignored.

One of the great parts of this book is an interview with Burtynsky (in actual fact multiple interviews collated over time). He reveals himself as photography with an interest in craft and art and even more importantly for his work, a deep interest in the world.

The photographs included are from a range of his projects, I'll summarise them here..

Railcuts - Side views of railcuts in the sides of steep sided hills and mountains.
Mines and Tailings - Overviews of various mines, abandoned shafts and the well known intensely coloured tailings
Quarries - 'Inverted Skyscrapers' in Burtynsky's excellent words. More in the Quarries book review
Urban Mines - Mostly monoculture waste, including the remarkable tyre piles
Oil Fields and Refineries - Derricks and industrial machinery/piping
Shipbreaking - The architectural and most sublime work based in Bangladesh

Overall a very highly recommended book which is available from Amazon for £33.20

Read more on Edward Burtynsky

Quarries Book Review – Edward Burtynsky

Oil Book Review - Edward Burtynsky

Manufactured Landscapes – Edward Burtynsky

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