Burtynsky’s careerdefining work
Toronto artist premieres impactful new film at TIFF
Photographer and filmmaker Edward Burtynsky’s career has traced the movement of humans on this earth through the industrial footprint we’ve left on it. Now, his career culminates in his latest work, Anthropocene.
The new multi-disciplinary art, publishing and film project, in collaboration with Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier, encompasses a feature documentary premiering this year at TIFF, exhibitions at the AGO and the National Gallery in Ottawa and a new book.
“To me, [ Anthropocene] is kind of a survey of all the things that I’ve done, from mining to deforestation to agriculture, to how we manage and control water. All of those things are markings of the anthropocene [a proposed epoch dating from the beginning of significant human impact on the Earth],” Burtynsky says. “That, in itself, has come together in this project in a way. It makes me nervous what I’m going to do next.”
The journey of Anthropocene has taken his team across the globe, exploring underground mines in Russia and the Gotthard Tunnel in Switzerland, the longest tunnel ever made for train passage. They flew to Kenya, where they photographed Sudan, the last northern white rhino, which actually died six months later, and Nairobi, where they documented the burning of over 16,000 tusks as a response to poachers involved in the illegal ivory trade.
“It sums up that we, as humans, are now a force that is greater than all the natural forces on the planet right now,” he says. “There’s a lot of things that we can do as a result of being a dominant force, which is change the temperature of the ocean or change the composition of the atmosphere.”
A 30-plus year career examining the bombed out landscapes of our natural world doesn’t foster much hope.
“Fifteen, 20 years ago, I was in my grief stage,” he says earnestly. “Now I’ve just kind of accepted that there’s a big problem.… I feel like I got the best part: no war, mostly growth and the excitement of technology and watching it change the world in a dramatic way. I’ve experienced all of those things, and now I’m sitting back and looking at it, and it’s painful.”
Anthropocene premieres at TIFF on Sept. 6 and for official release on Sept. 28. The exhibition opens at the AGO on Sept. 28.
Burning ivory tusks from ‘Anthropocene’