Across the bay from San Francisco, enormous industrial cranes that resemble steel dinosaurs stand guard at the Port of Oakland. They epitomize the domination of industry in the modern world, and at the same time they possess a strangely artistic fascination.

Natural landscapes that have been scarred by industry and waste are often more aesthetically interesting because of their damage. Edward Burtynsky captures this paradox stunningly in his photo retrospective, Manufactured Landscapes, on exhibit at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University through September 18.

Burtynsky’s photographs are classified as Railcuts, Mines and Tailings, Quarries, Urban Mines, Oil Fields and Refineries and Shipbreaking. Wide angle views of trains traversing mountainsides, and valleys created by steep heaps of tires, are both disturbing and beautiful. The emotion surrounding environmental destruction is an easy one to tap into, and Burtynsky’s work digs right at the heart, illuminating and critiquing the disappearance of pristine landscapes.

Posted by Sarah Rich


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  1. Joe Clay July 18, 2005 at 8:28 am

    A similar guy came to my electronic media class to show us his film about shipbreaking. It was truly an awesome experience. His images, especially since they were shot with film, were beautiful, and to see the process was amazing. It’s sad though the toll it takes on the environment, and the lives of the shipbreakers.

  2. Jaggae July 18, 2005 at 2:07 am

    This is similar to people’s fascination with war photography. Especially when it came to colour during the Vietnam War. And also earlier when the first photographers took pictures of horse carriage accidents and photojournalism was born. Frighteningly beautiful. Imagine valley full of tree stumps, beautiful image, yes. A great tragedy for mankind as well.

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