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Edward Burtynsky

  • Photographic prints
  • 1985
  • 1.5 m x 2 m
  • 155 Wellington Street West, RBC Centre, Toronto

About the artwork

In his artwork titled Railcuts, Burtynsky informs us that his photographs do not share an aesthetic agenda with earlier images of the railway. The title Railcuts evokes a sense of direct physical contact with the land. Blasted rock-face fills most of the frames in these images, and the tightly cropped views of the railway line seen head-on are strangely airless and even claustrophobic. Compared with the deep perspective used in works by nineteenth-century photographers who worked for the Canadian Pacific Railway, Burtynsky’s viewpoint is close and confrontational.

About the artist

Edward Burtynsky is regarded as one of the world’s most accomplished contemporary photographers. His remarkable photographic depictions of global industrial landscapes are included in the collections of over sixty major museums around the world, including the National Gallery of Canada, the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid, the Tate Modern in London, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in California.

Burtynsky was born in 1955 of Ukrainian heritage in St. Catharines, Ontario. He received his BAA in Photography/ Media Studies from Ryerson University in 1982, and in 1985 founded Toronto Image Works, a darkroom rental facility, custom photo laboratory, digital imaging and new media computer-training centre catering to all levels of Toronto’s art community.

Burtynsky’s distinctions include the TED Prize, the Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts, the Outreach award at the Rencontres d’Arles, the Roloff Beny Book award, and the Rogers Best Canadian Film Award. He sits on the board of directors for CONTACT: Toronto’s International Photography Festival, and The Ryerson Image Centre. In 2006 he was awarded the title of Officer of the Order of Canada and in 2008 he was awarded the ICP Infinity Award for Art. In 2018 Burtynsky was named Photo London’s Master of Photography and the Mosaic Institute’s Peace Patron. In 2019 he was the recipient of the Arts & Letters Award at the Canadian Association of New York’s annual Maple Leaf Ball and the 2019 Lucie Award for Achievement in Documentary Photography. Most recently he was awarded a Royal Photographic Society Honorary Fellowship (2020). He currently holds eight honorary doctorate degrees.

Fun facts

  • Burtynsky trademark is to take panoramic shots and add a breathtaking sense of perspective to them to illustrate convoluted subjects such as industrialisation, economic growth, the prevalence of oil powered societies and the mechanised mining of our earth.
  • At the age of sixty-one, Burtynsky conducts his shoots with unceasing energy, while waking at dawn, working past midnight, he polishes his own creative adversity in extreme situations and prefers to photograph in bright overcast, when shadows fade away, to sense the real volume of a place.

Engagement questions

  • What do you think the artist's intentions are?