Quarries: a fascinating (and photographable) universe

Edward Burtynsky and the stone industry


Quarries are cinematographic places, beige tonalities of stone contrasting with the vigorous blue of the sky and the greenish tones of water. For Edward Burtynsky, a Canadian photographer of Ukrainian descent, they also constitute a reality that calls for an analytic eye.

Born in 1955 in Ontario, Burtynsky studied Photography/Media Studies at Ryerson University and is one of the most significant names of contemporary photography. His work is featured in over 60 museum collections all over the world.

A significant part of his work focuses on the transformation of Nature through industry. From mineral extraction to silicon and oil exploration, many industrial sectors are contemplated in his portfolio, and quarries are no exception.

In the Quarries series, Burtynsky presents a selection of photographs taken over 15 years in Europe, Asia and North America. Alongside Italy, Portugal represents the European stone extraction and transformation industry in his work. In 2006, the photographer visited Bancatel, Pardais and Borba.

Iberia Quarries #7 (Borba-Mouro, Portugal), 2006 © Edward Burtynsky, courtesy Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto / Flowers Gallery, London

This carefully produced series portrays one of the biggest paradoxes of Humankind: on the one hand, our dependance on nature in order to produce consumer goods; on the other hand, growing concerns regarding the planet’s overall health and sustainability.

Burtynsky’s work calls for the urgency of using natural resources in a careful and conscious way. This has also been one of the main goals of the First Stone programme – that has, for the last four years, challenged designers, architects and artists to create new projects using stone waste.


Font: The photographer’s website — www.edwardburtynsky.com
Photos: © Edward Burtynsky, courtesy Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto / Flowers Gallery, London