The Anthropocene Project by Edward Burtynsky is directly influenced by the proposed new geologic era ‘Anthropocene’ – introduced in 2000 by chemist and Nobel Prize winner Paul Jozef Crutzen, to represent a formal recognition and acknowledgement of the “human signature” on the planet.
Our planet has borne witness to five great extinction events, and these have been prompted by a variety of causes: a colossal meteor impact, massive volcanic eruptions, and oceanic cyanobacteria activity that generated a deadly toxicity in the atmosphere. These were the naturally occurring phenomena governing life’s ebb and flow. Now it is becoming clear that humankind, with its population explosion, industry, and technology, has in a very short period of time also become an agent of immense global change. Arguably, we are on the cusp of becoming (if we are not already) the perpetrators of a sixth major extinction event. Our planetary system is affected by a magnitude of force as powerful as any naturally occurring global catastrophe, but one caused solely by the activity of a single species: us.
“Most people would walk by a dump pile and assume that there’s no picture there,” says global industrial landscape photographer Edward Burtynsky. “But there’s always a picture, you just have to go in there and find it.” Born in Canada in 1955, Burtynsky has been investigating human-altered landscapes in his artistic practice for over 35 years, capturing the sweeping views of nature altered by industry; from stone, to minerals, oil, transportation, and silicon. “Of course, it’s important to me to make sure that my pictures are attractive to the eye,” he says. “But beneath the surface there’s always a bigger, deeper environmental issue.”