Edward Burtynsky: Anthropocene

October 4 - November 3, 2018

Opening Reception: Thursday, October 4, 6-8pm

Nicholas Metivier Gallery is pleased to announce Anthropocene, an exhibition of photographs  by Edward Burtynsky. The exhibition will open on October 4th and run until November 3rd with an opening reception on October 4th.  

I have come to think of my preoccupation with the Anthropocene — the indelible marks left by humankind on the geological face of our planet — as a conceptual extension of my first and most fundamental interests as a photographer. I have always been concerned to show how we affect the Earth in a big way. To this end, I seek out and photograph large-scale systems that leave lasting marks. At the heart of my challenge has been the pursuit of vantage points that best enable me to picture the relationship of these systems to the land.

- Edward Burtynsky


Anthropocene is a new body of work by world-renowned photographer Edward Burtynsky. Four years in the making, it comprises a release of large-format photographs; a feature documentary film co-directed by Burtynsky and Jennifer Baichwal and a book published by Steidl. In addition, the project introduces High-Resolution Murals and AR (augmented reality) installations as extensions of Burtynsky’s photographic practice which has always embraced the most advanced technology available. The exhibition at Nicholas Metivier Gallery will open alongside The Anthropocene Project, a collaborative multimedia museum show at the Art Gallery of Ontario and the National Gallery of Canada from Edward Burtynsky, Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier.

For Anthropocene, Burtynsky traveled to every continent, with the exception of Antarctica, and visited twenty countries including Canada, Chile, China, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Kenya, Nigeria, Russia, Spain and the United States.  A decade following his first applications of digital photography, Burtynsky has utilized gigapixel technology (hundreds of incremental photos of a single scene stitched together making one super high resolution photograph) to create his largest and most detailed works to date. While many of the works are shot from his signature bird’s-eye view perspective using airplanes, helicopters and drones, Burtynsky also overcame the technical challenges of underground and underwater photography for the first time using specialized equipment to capture remarkably detailed and surprisingly colour-filled images.

The Uralkali potash mines in Berezniki, Russia consist of 3,000 km of tunnels, 1,000 feet below ground. In order to document the complex patterns and colours in the myriad of tunnels, Burtynsky’s crew used LED lighting to “paint the walls” while he photographed over an extended exposure period. Off the Indonesian Island of Komodo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site,  Burtynsky completed several sixty-foot dives to capture one of the last thriving coral reefs on the planet. The resulting photographs resemble Jackson Pollock paintings in their density and abstraction and have enough resolution to be printed at an astonishing life-size scale measuring ten by twenty feet.

Burtynsky’s photographs of the mountains of plastic in Kenya’s Dandora Landfill site; the fluorescent palette-like grids created by a lithium mine in Chile’s Atacama desert; the foreboding expansion of real estate onto the water in Lagos, Nigeria, soon to be the world’s most populated city; the giant marble quarries in Carrara, Italy that have grown exponentially since Burtynsky first shot them in 1993; and a coal mine in Germany that hosts the largest terrestrial machines moving 240,000 cubic metres of earth a day, illustrate the Anthropocene with terrifying beauty. In stark contrast to these images are the coral reefs in Indonesia and the lush redwood forests on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. As two of the last few examples of untouched ecosystems, it was important for Burtynsky to bring focus to the biodiversity and beauty we are at risk of losing.

About Edward Burtynsky:

Edward Burtynsky’s photographs have been shown in hundreds of touring international museum shows and commercial exhibitions including Water at the Contemporary Arts Center of New Orleans, Oil at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. and Manufactured Landscapes at the National Gallery of Canada. Burtynsky’s work is held in the collections of the Tate Modern, London; the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York and the Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid. Awards and distinctions include the TED Prize and the Roloff Beny Book award. In 2006, Burtynsky was awarded the title of Officer of the Order of Canada and in 2016, he received the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts. Most recently, Burtynsky was named Photo London’s 2018 Master of Photography. He currently holds eight honorary doctorate degrees.

The Anthropocene Project - The Museum Show:

On September 28, 2018, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) in Toronto and the National Gallery of Canada (NGC) in Ottawa will present The Anthropocene Project. It is the first concurrent and complimentary exhibition between the Art Gallery of Ontario and the National Gallery of Canada. The exhibition will tour internationally, opening in the Spring of 2019 at Manifattura di Arti, Sperimentazione e Tecnologia (MAST) in Bologna, Italy. A four-year collaboration between Edward Burtynsky, Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier, the exhibition uses both new and traditional photographic and film technology to create an innovative and dynamic expression of humanity’s incursions on the planet. 

Anthropocene - The Film:

Anthropocene, a new feature documentary film by Edward Burtynsky, Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier, is distributed by Mongrel Media in Canada and will open in theatres in select cities on October 5, 2018. It is the third in a trilogy of award-winning films including Manufactured Landscapes (2006) and Watermark (2013). Anthropocene will make its world premiere as a Special Presentation at Toronto International FIlm Festival (TIFF) in September 2018.

Anthropocene - The Book:

Published by Steidl, Anthropocene is a hardcover book with colour plates by Edward Burtynsky. It feature essays by Burtynsky, Jennifer Baichwal, and Nicholas de Pencier; an overview of Burtynsky’s work by art historian Suzaan Boettger, and essay by Anthropocene Working Group scientists Jan Zalasiewicz and Colin Waters. Anthropocene also includes new work from celebrated Canadian author and poet Margaret Atwood.