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Before the Flood.
Photographs by Edward Burtynsky.
Flowers Gallery, London, 2003. 32 pp., 23 color illustrations, 14x11".
Edward Burtynsky is one of the great North American large-format photographers of our time, residing in a class with the likes of Mark Klett, Edward Ranney, and William Clift. While their chosen subject matter varies greatly, each of these artists approach the world with an attentiveness that matches the grand view and richness of detail that the view-camera provides. The central element of Burtynsky's work is summed up in one word: scale. In terms of scale, the Three Gorges Dam Project, in central China, is massive. Over the course of 17 years, 1.8 million people will be displaced and relocated and some 40 towns and cities will have been destroyed and rebuilt in order to dam the mighty Yangtze River. This enormous undertaking is currently the largest construction project on earth. When completed the hydroelectric dam is expected to produce the equivalent electricity of 18 nuclear power plants. But what is most fascinating in these photographs are the visual and literal dynamics of individuals to their surrounding landscape. Average size buildings grow exponentially once you recognize that those tiny black specks are people on the roof. Another fascinating aspect is that entire cities, some of around 80,000 people, are being dismantled entirely by hand.

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