Industry Visualised

Statistics from the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service show that the planet’s temperature increased by 1.48°C last year. Scientists estimate that 2024 will be the year we pass the 1.5°C target agreed in the 2015 Paris Accord. We’re already living through the consequences of the climate crisis as heatwaves, floods and wildfires touch lives across the world. In the words of the renowned landscape photographer Edward Burtynsky (b. 1955): “Our planetary system is affected by a magnitude of force as powerful as any naturally occurring global catastrophe, but it is one caused solely by the activity of a single species: us.”

Burtynsky is recognised internationally for dedicating his practice to revealing the impact of human industry on the planet. Salt pans, mines and quarries are frequent subjects. We see sprawling expanses of land scarred by extraction and pollution from far above. Burtynsky also takes us below to witness the impact of excavation. The Kennecott Copper Mine, Bingham Valley, Utah (1983) brings to mind a colosseum. As we look closer, twisting roads burrow in concentric circles – deep down into the ground.

Saatchi Gallery, London, presents 94 of the lens-based artist’s large-format pieces. It marks the European premiere of his most ambitious project to date, titled In the Wake of Progress. The 22-minute multimedia experience is 40 years in the making, combining photography, film footage and an original score. Burtynsky’s practice, which is also celebrated at London’s Flowers Gallery in 2024, calls us to reflect on the cost of unbridled development. It’s about building a liveable world for future generations.

Saatchi Gallery, Burtnysky: Extraction/Abstraction | Until 6 May

Words: Diana Bestwish Tetteh

Image Credits:

  1. Uralkali Potash Mine #1, Berezniki, Russia, (2017) © Edward Burtynsky, courtesy Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto.
  2. Coal Terminal #1, Kooragang Coal Terminal, Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia, (2022) © Edward Burtynsky, courtesy Flowers Gallery, London.
  3. Tailings Pond #2 Wesselton Diamond Mine, Kimberley, Northern Cape, South Africa (2018) © Edward Burtynsky, courtesy Flowers Gallery, London.