Edward Burtynsky Oil – Large Format Photographs at the Corcoran Gallery of Art

Edward Burtynsky - Oil - "Silver Lake Operations #3 Lake Lefroy Australia"

Last Updated 08 October, 2009
Edward Burtynsky’s stunning large format photographs, having social and political ramifications, are being featured in a show of large color prints, titled: “Oil”. The show is on view at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington DC.

Burtynsky is a master of the large format camera. While his subject matter might not seem particularly ‘photogenic’; mines, recycling operations, industrial scale industrial structures, the photographs are visually astonishing.


They are evocative not only because of the scale of his subjects, and the ecological impact of their changes to the human landscape, but because he is able to record these subjects in visually mesmerizing detail and depth.

Oxford Tire Pile #2
Oxford Tire Pile #2

I am at once enthralled and appalled by these photos. Not a mean feat to engage a little-bit-jaded photographer such as myself. At this period in the history of photography, and ‘eco’ sensitivity, we’ve come to expect images of human modified landscapes.

Mountains of Coal - China
Mountains of Coal - China

But nothing I’ve seen before in related images quite prepares me for the interplay between industrial scale volumes of structures or materials, and the subsequently poignant impact on our collective human scale lives.

"Recycling #2 Chittagong Bangladesh 2001"
"Recycling #2 Chittagong Bangladesh 2001"

We hire out the creation of mines in the earth to feed our  manufacturing of product needs.

"Jubilee Operations"
"Jubilee Operations"

We are caught  in ever growing spirals of consumption of materials and the oil needed to mine, manufacture, transport and then reclaim them.

China City
China City

We even now recycle cities to make way for our ‘urban renewal’ projects, and the Three Gorges dam.

Three Gorges Dam
Three Gorges Dam

Wan Zhou China
Wan Zhou China

Burtynsky’s Oil show will be at the Corcoran Gallery of Art through 13 December, 2009 and will travel to other venues (sorry, I have had trouble finding future locations and dates for this show)

All images are Copyrighted by Edward Burtynsky, and are used here with permission for editorial purposes only.

Many of Edward Burtynsky’s photographs are excellently reproduced in these books:

And I really like this DVD documentary about his work, and methods, which also includes stills galleries of his images:

I’m not always taken with the work of many contemporary photographers, but Edward Burtynsky’s work and subject matter are very moving, artistically, politically, and as viewed by this photographer and photo enthusiast.

I hope you find his work as awe inspiring as I do.

Author: P U

8 thoughts on “Edward Burtynsky Oil – Large Format Photographs at the Corcoran Gallery of Art

  1. These are amazing photographs. It makes me think of the great photographers who did “change the world” from the public seeing their work. Work by photographers such as Dorothea Lange, Lewis Hine and W. Eugene Smith, just to name a few. Of course, the world is so bombarbed with images today, that there is the worry that work such as this will be unseen, or unnoticed. Thanks for showing it………

    1. Hi misty,

      Not to worry.

      With the degree of recognition that his work has received, and the power of the photographs and concepts, I think the work will find it’s place in the pantheon of photography’s important images.

      Thanks for the comments,

  2. HI Ken,

    thanks for the nice post on Ed’s oil show.

    best regards,

    Marcus Schubert
    Director of Media, Publications & Exhibits
    Office of Edward Burtynsky

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