Edward Burtynsky’s is the most famous photography

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Edward Burtynsky’s photography provides a powerful statement to the world’s responsibility towards sustainability. When I first looked at Burtynsky’s photos, I simply thought that’s a cool picture of a landscape. And then I did a double take to try to figure out what I was really looking at in the picture. The picture then makes you think about what people and industry are doing to the environment. Is it okay to permanently change the landscape for a temporary industrial gain? The photos make me appreciate the need to balance the benefit of the action and the detriment to the land and water. The photos spoke to me as I would like to major in sustainability studies at the University of Texas. It seems as if Edward Burtynsky is not necessarily passing judgment on the acts of industry and development across the world, but wants to shine a light on it for people to realize that their acts are not isolated, but humanity needs to take responsibility for the totality of the industrial development and decide how we want to leave earth for future generations. Are we being selfish in developing our lands without worrying if people in the future can sustain themselves with what we are leaving them.

Edward Burtynsky’s photograph titled “Phosphor Tailings Pond #4” illustrates the fine line between natural beauty and a unnatural wasteland. When I first looked at the photograph, it looked like a picture of a beautiful sand beach next to Carribbean water. Then I realized that this was a tailing pond from a mine where it disposed of its phosphorous runoff. The form of the photograph is beautiful, while the content is ugly. This a wonderful juxtaposition or contradiction in art to make a social commentary the pros and cons of industrial advancement. Therefore, Burtynsky’s photograph high lights social awareness of the detrimental environmental affects of man and industry on nature that are irreversible. The theme of his work is sustainability.

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The first visual elements that I see when viewing Burtynsky’s photograph “Phosphor Tailings Pond #4,” are the lines in the phosphorous sand made by the tractor. The lines are expressive showing that there is order in the industrial chaos as it pollutes the landscape. The algae plumes in the tailings pond provide contour lines that give a boundary to the heaping sands of waste. The lines of the tractor moving the phosphorous waste piles towards the water provides direction and movement to show that there is more and more waste yet to come. The shape of the sandy waste is given by the water, but the mass of the waste provided by the piles of sand that are being pushed, which show depth and height to the piles. The emotional effects of the colors of the photo are calming colors of green and beige, while the emotional realization of the picture is disturbing. And the visual pattern created by the repeated lines of the tractor illustrate that the environmental waste is repetitive with no end in sight. This repetition creates a rhythm of environmental pollution that is likely intended to create a discomfort by the viewer of the complacency society has in accepting industrial pollution. And the symmetry of the phosphorous sandy waste next to the polluted pond shows that man is polluting both land and water.

Edward Burtynsky series of photographs dedicated to water stress the importance of water as the basis for life and the need to change the natural landscape for humans to gain water supplies for their needs. The first photograph I am discussing is titled “Pivot Irrigation /Suburb” taken south of Yuma, Arizona. I have seen many views like this as I fly from Austin to visit my cousins in Phoenix, Arizona, flying over arid West Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. The theme of the painting seems to be that without groundwater for irrigation on the pivots and wells for the plumbing, there could be no life in this dessert climate. The repetitive circular pattern of the pivot circles provides a rhythm showing the agricultural nature of the area. While the contrast of bright green crops that have been irrigated to the desolate sand show the complete dependence on groundwater for any life. The juxtaposition of the crop circles above the square housing development show an asymmetry with two sides of shape that do not match, yet seem balanced and show a balance between the resident’s agricultural work and their domestic live in the dessert. The photo appears in the Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery, New York.

Another photo of Burtynsky’s commentary on water is titled “Pivot Irrigation #7, High Plains, Texas Panhandle” in the Flowers Gallery. The composition of the photograph showing four crop circles where they have pivots irrigating groundwater is very symmetrical. There are two large crop circles in the center of the same size, with two smaller pivots on each side that shows a proportion of large against small pivots to cover as much of the land as they can with crops. Within the circles, you can see the detail of the many lines that give the photo a visual texture. The lines provide a pattern of the rows of crops within the circles that show a linear perspective and the complex nature of farming. Meanwhile the monochromatic color palette of only dull brown colors seems to convey the difficulty of farming, especially in a drought.

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Edward Burtynsky’s is the most famous photography. (2022, Jul 07). Retrieved from


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