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Profiles in Photography: Edward Burtynsky

This week's Profiles in Photography focuses on Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky. Burtynsky is best known for his sweeping views of industrial landscapes including beaches, mines, quarries, and scrap piles. His work has been exhibited around the world, including the Guggenheim Museum and the Bibliothèque Nationale. He is frequently cited as one of the top modern photographers in the world and his work is as inspiring as some of the great photographers from history such as Ansel Adams and Henri Cartier-Bresson, both of whom Burtynsky claims as influences on his own work. Burtynsky grew up in St. Catharines, Ontario where his father worked in a General Motors plant. In the 1970s, Edward's father made a purchase that would change his son's life. He bought a darkroom, cameras, instruction manuals, and developing chemicals from the widow of an amateur photographer. Together with his sister, the three of them soon learned how to make black and white photographs and began experimenting with different photography and darkroom techniques. Edward's sister started a small business as a portrait photographer while Edward himself began taking night classes in photography, eventually entering the Ryerson Polytechnical Institute. Burtynsky's technique involves using a large format field camera to take extremely large photos of a landscape or vista. He also prefers an aerial perspective, seeking to find a high vantage point where he can get a broad, yet detailed, view of the subject of his photo. One wonders if, with the growing popularity of drone photography gear, Burtynsky will begin using such devices in his own work. Should ever get the chance to see one of his exhibits, it is well worth the effort. Edward Burtynsky truly is one of the great artistic and landscape photographers of the modern era. -- da Bird
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