Edward Burtynsky: Africa

October 6 - 29, 2022



Nicholas Metivier Gallery is pleased to announce Africa, an exhibition of new photographs by Edward Burtynsky. The exhibition will open on October 6th and run until October 29th, with an opening day reception on Thursday, October 6th from 5-7 pm.

Between 2015 and 2020, Edward Burtynsky travelled to Africa to document the last continent on the precipice of massive geological transformation due to industrial expansion. With a focus on sub-Saharan Africa, he completed shoots in Kenya, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, Senegal, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Madagascar and Tanzania. With Africa, Burtynsky expands on major themes from the arc of his career including extraction, agriculture and urbanization. Using fixed-wing aircrafts, helicopters and drones alongside new camera technologies, his most recent photographs reveal the design, structure and scale of the marks we inscribe on the surface of the earth like never before.

The catalyst for this massive project came nearly two decades earlier in China, where Burtynsky made his acclaimed photographic series China and film Manufactured Landscapes, which focused on the burgeoning manufacturing industry and construction of the Three Gorges Dam. Witnessing first-hand the speed at which the country was permanently altering its landscape on several fronts, he understood that Africa would be next, and last, in line. Drawing a striking parallel with the construction of the Three Gorges Dam, Burtynsky photographed the controversial new dam in Ethiopia, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) situated on the Blue Nile River. Soon to be completed, it will be largest hydroelectric power plant in Africa. In addition to capturing the unfathomable scale of the dam, Burtynsky also focused on the power of the churning of the water exiting the dam. Largely abstract yet showing more detail than is perceptible to the human eye, these images encapsulate the poetic balance between form and content that Burtynsky strives for in all his work.

Since the release of his China series, Burtynsky has become increasingly interested in balancing the effects of industry with the landscape in its natural state. In 2015, when flying over the Rift Valley in Kenya, he was struck by the range of natural colours and tones. Seeing this early in the Africa project inspired him to further explore pristine landscapes including the Tsaus Mountains of the Sperrgebiet in Namibia, one of the most stunning land formations he has ever experienced. Its vastness and beauty were a revelation and when countered with the heavily industrialized images they are imbued with an inherent vulnerability.

While evolving my use of aerial perspective, in these recent photographs I am surveying two very distinct aspects of the landscape; that of the earth as something intact, undisturbed yet implicitly vulnerable… and that of the earth as opened up by the systematic extraction of resources.

– Edward Burtynsky


A new book, Edward Burtynsky: African Studies, published by Steidl will also be released this fall.