Edward Burtynsky is considered one of Canada's most respected photographers. Born in Ontario in 1955, Burtynsky is a graduate of Ryerson University and Niagara College. His early exposure to the General Motors plant in his hometown inspired his ambition to depict global industrial landscapes. His imagery explores the link between industry and nature, finding beauty and humanity in the raw elements of mining, quarrying, manufacturing, shipping, oil production, and recycling.
In 1985, Burtynsky founded Toronto Image Works, a darkroom rental facility, custom photo laboratory, digital imaging, and new media computer-training center for the local art community.
Burtynsky's works have been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions across Canada, the United States, Europe, and Asia. His prints are housed in public, corporate, and private collections worldwide, and are included in 15 major museums around the world, including the National Gallery of Canada, the Bibliothèque Nationale, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Guggenheim.
Burtynsky has received numerous awards and fellowships, and has lectured at the National Gallery of Canada, the Library of Congress, and the George Eastman House. His images have appeared in various periodicals, including Art Forum, Art in America, Art News, Blind Spot, National Geographic, and the New York Times. He also sits on the board of directors for Toronto’s international photography festival, Contact.
For 25 years I have created images about how our civilization has imposed itself upon and transformed nature. During the course of my work I have become anxiously aware of the impact our actions are having upon the world. As a husband and father, as an entrepreneur and provider, with a deep gratitude for his birthright in a peace loving, bountiful nation, I feel the urgency to make people aware of the consequences we could face. What we give to the future are the choices we make today.
For the past five years, I focused my attention on and made photographs about China. I began thinking about this formidable country as a subject around the time that construction began on the Three Gorges Dam. The voyages and resulting images I made during those years were as much about my personal need to understand the ecological events unfolding on our planet as they were about the powerful force China is now bringing to bear upon how the world does its business.
In my view, China is the most recent participant to fall prey to the seduction of western ideals, the promise of fulfillment and happiness. From my experience of living in a developed nation, the troubling downside of progress is something that I am sensitive to. The mass consumerism these ideals ignite and the resulting degradation of our environment intrinsic to the process of making things to keep people happy and fulfilled frightens me. I no longer see my world as delineated by countries, with borders, or language, but as 6.5 billion humans living off a single, finite planet.
—Edward Burtynsky, June 2007