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Words: Anne-Marie Hoeve

Photos: Edward Burtynsky

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Welcome to scenes from the Anthropocene – the first geological epoch where man has taken over from nature in defining the outcome of the planet. In an epic journey around the world, photographer Edward Burtynsky has crossed countries and continents to capture the colossal impact of our actions.

There is a strangely serene beauty to this series of photos that is entirely at odds with what they depict: how we are shovelling, scraping and chipping away at the earth’s natural landscape, paving the way to our own demise in the process, through mass industry and overpopulation.

It is a process that is important to see, and Burtynsky visited 20 countries in four years in search of tangible evidence. His aim? To bring “an awareness of the normally unseen result of civilisation’s cumulative impact upon the planet.”

And yet, the project is not about finger-pointing. Instead, Burtynsky believes: “by describing the problem vividly, by being revelatory and not accusatory, we can help spur a broader conversation about viable solutions.” In the end, he hopes that “today’s generation will be inspired to carry the momentum of this discussion forward, so that succeeding generations may continue to experience the wonder and magic of what life, and living on Earth, has to offer.”

His images are collected in a book, ‘Anthropocene’, published by Steidl and are part of a broader multimedia project involving film-makers Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier which includes a major travelling exhibition, documentary film and interactive website.

Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky is widely recognised for his depictions of global industrial landscapes and his work is included in the collections of over 60 major museums around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid and the Tate Modern in London.

Makoko #1
Lagos, Nigeria, 2016.

Dandora Landfill #3
Plastics Recycling, Nairobi, Kenya, 2016.

“Our planetary system is affected by a magnitude of force as powerful as any naturally occurring global catastrophe, but one caused solely by the activity of a single species: us”

Edward Burtynsky

Imperial Valley #5
Holtville, California, USA, 2009.

Clearcut #1
Palm Oil Plantation, Borneo, Malaysia, 2016.

Saw Mills #3
Log Booms, Lagos, Nigeria, 2016.

Phosphor Tailings Pond #4
Near Lakeland, Florida, USA, 2012.

“I have always been concerned to show how we affect the Earth in a big way. To this end, I seek out and photograph large-scale systems that leave lasting marks”

Edward Burtynsky

Carrara Marble Quarries, Carbonera Quarry #1
Carrara, Italy, 2016.

Morenci Mine #2
Clifton, Arizona, USA, 2012.

Oil Bunkering #7
Niger Delta, Nigeria, 2016.

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