The global award in photography and sustainability

Edward Burtynsky

The concept of the landscape as architecture has become, for me, an act of imagination. I remember looking at buildings made of stone, and thinking, there has to be an interesting landscape somewhere out there, because these stones had to have been taken out of the quarry one block at a time. I had never seen a dimensional quarry, but I envisioned an inverted cubed architecture on the side of a hill. I went in search of it, and when I had it on my ground glass I knew that I had arrived. It’s an organic architecture created by our pursuit of raw materials. Open-pit mines, funnelling down, were to me like inverted pyramids. Photographing quarries was a deliberate act of going out to try to find something in the world that would match the kinds of forms that were in my imagination but unseen in real life — the idea of inverted skyscrapers.

We are surrounded by all kinds of consumer goods, and yet we are profoundly detached from the sources of those things. Our lifestyles are made possible by industries all around the world, but we take them for granted as the background to our existence. I feel that by showing those places that are normally outside our experience, but very much a part of our everyday lives, I can add to our understanding of who we are and what we are doing. Ultimately what I’m looking for are interesting places and moments to embody my poetic narrative of the transfigured landscape, the industrial supply line and what that means in our life.

Edward  Burtynsky