Over his 25 years career, the Canadian Edward Burtynsky (born in 1955 in St. Catharines) developed keen eyesight of man-made alterations upon nature caused by the pursuit of modernization. Burtynsky’s eager anxiety to engender the audience’s awakening of such disrupted sceneries leaded him to China, where he engaged in a series of photographs depicting human and environmental costs of the tremendous economic boom that China is undergoing.
For five years starting from 2002, Burtynsky explored China by scrutinising on the one hand the urban revolution with his series Urban Renewal, on the other by following the industrial production processes: from the collection of energy with his series on the Three Gorges Dam, and the human labour with Manufacturing; the steel producers with Coal and Steel; the collapsed heavy industry due to mid-90s restructuring with Old Industry; the ships production in ports with Shipyards; to finally the recycling process with Recycling.
His large-sized photographs combine with verve aesthetic and documentary-inflected viewpoints, which transform his landscapes into paradoxical sites of quietness, unsettledness, alienation, and sublimity at the same time. Rather than implying direct condemnations of Chinese harsh disruption of landscapes, Burtynsky chooses a more insightful path in problematising his photographs’ capacities of showing diverse intuitive and emotional responses to another culture environment.