Edward Burtynsky

Photographs are the “reflecting pools of our time,” politically and societally.

World-Renowned Photographer, Winner of the TED Prize

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Edward Burtynsky | World-Renowned Photographer, Winner of the TED Prize
Lavin Exclusive Speaker

A world-renowned photographer, Edward Burtynsky creates stunning photos—“reflecting pools of our time”—that explore large-scale social, political, and economic issues, including water, oil, and the upheaval caused by rapid industrialization and climate change. On stage, he talks about the connection between art and social transformation, human nature and consumption, and industry and environment. 

“What took out the dinosaurs was a meteor impact … we, the human species, are now that impact. Humans are shifting the balance of the planet, and the choice rests within us to destroy it all, or not.”

— Edward Burtynsky, The New Yorker

Edward Burtynsky’s remarkable photographic depictions of global industrial landscapes are included in the collections of over fifty major museums around the world, including the National Gallery of Canada and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. His life and work are the subjects of a recent profile in the “World Changers” issue of The New Yorker and of the award-winning documentaries Watermark and Manufactured Landscapes, both directed by Jennifer Baichwal. Watermark was awarded the $100,000 Best Canadian Film Award from the Toronto Film Critics Association. His exhibitions, which have all been published as books, include Residual Landscapes, Manufactured Landscapes, Before the Flood, China, Quarries, Australian Minescapes, Oil, and Water.

 

“I am not out to tell people a unitary story about what they should do to save the earth but, rather, to give people a picture of what it takes to live the way we do.”

— Edward Burtynsky, The New Yorker
Burtynsky’s photos explore the complicated link between industry and nature, combining the raw elements of mining, quarrying, manufacturing, shipping, oil production, and recycling into highly expressive visions that find beauty and humanity in the most unlikely of places.

Burtynsky is the founder of Toronto Image Works, a custom photo laboratory, digital imaging and new media centre catering to all levels of Toronto's art community. He has spoken widely, including at the Library of Congress in Washington, and at TED. In fact, he was one of the first recipients of the TED Prize. He is also an Officer of the Order of Canada and was named one of Canada’s Greatest Explorers by Canadian Geographic. He is the recipient of the 2016 Governor General’s Visual & Media Arts Award. Along with the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography festival, Burtynsky has announced the creation of The Burtynsky Grant, a $5,000 prize awarded to a Canadian photographic artist to support the publication of his/her photography book (his $25,000 GG award was donated in support).

Speech Topics

Climate Change
Water

There is no life without water: the subject of Edward Burtynsky’s newest exhibition and book. In this immersive talk—which features his spectacular photographs—Burtynsky tells us the story of where water comes from, how we use it, distribute it, and waste it. He shows us its remote sources, the transformation of desert into cities with waterfronts on each doorstep, the compromised landscapes of the American Southwest. And, he explores the infrastructure of water management: the gigantic hydroelectric dams and terraced rice fields in the heart of China, the vast irrigation systems of America’s bread basket, and the use of aquaculture. Through his poetic images, Burtynsky reveals a vital component of life on earth, and foreshadows the extent to which our future depends on how we deal with this increasingly scarce resource.

 
Visual Artists
The Landscape of Human Systems

In The Landscape of Human Systems, Edward Burtynsky presents a survey of his work, whether as large-scale colour photographs or more recently in film production, and discusses the intersection of his image-making process as an artist while exploring modern civilization’s troubling relationship with nature.