Photographs by Edward Burtynsky. Edited by Marcus Schubert. Text by Michael Mitchell, William E. Rees, Paul Roth.
Steidl Photography International, 2009. 140 pp., 100 color illustrations, 14¾x11½".
Edward Burtynsky’s Oil collects a decades’ worth of photographing the world’s
largest oil fields, refineries, freeway interchanges and automobile plants, in an
attempt to comprehend the scale of production attending this most politicized
of resources. The ideal photographer for this job, Burtynsky locates and
documents the sites that urban dwellers never see, and questions human
accountability. His imagery is vast in both scale and ambition, revealing the
apparatus behind the energy we mine from dwindling resources, and the
ongoing effects of the industrial revolution.“In 1997 I had what I refer to as
my oil epiphany,” Burtynsky explains:“it occurred to me that all the vast, manaltered
landscapes I had been in pursuit of for over 20 years were all possible
because of the discovery of oil and the mechanical advantage of the internal
combustion engine.” Burtynsky’s epiphany is typical of his desire to lift the
scrim of everyday life and reveal the basic resources that keep it in place.
What lies beyond is not pretty, and the images in Oil sometimes resemble the
post-apocalyptic desert landscapes of Mad Max, with their vast horizons of
featureless sand and desert foliage, punctuated by creaky-looking oil machinery.
With a unflinching eye, Burtynsky presents us with the reality of oil production
as its role in our civilization undergoes massive transformation.
View Ed Burtynsky speaking about the Oil project on TED.com:
Read the review by Douglas Stockdale in photo-eye Magazine