Quarries, Edward Burtynsky's photography

Edward Burtynsky Quarries

Rock of Ages # 15, Active Section, E.L. Smith Quarry, Barre, Vermont, 1991

Rock of Ages # 7, Active Granite Section, Wells-Lamson Quarry, Barre, Vermont, 1991

Rock of Ages # 26, Abandoned Section, E.L. Smith Quarry, Barre, Vermont, 1991

Carrara Marble Quarries # 3, Carrara, Italy, 1993

Carrara Marble Quarries # 24 & 25 (Diptych), Carrara, Italy, 1993

Makrana Marble Quarries #11, 2000

Makrana Marble Quarries #8, 2000

Iberia Quarries # 2, 2006

Iberia Quarries # 3, Cochicho Co., Pardais, Portugal, 2006

Iberia Quarries # 8, Cochicho Co., Pardais, Portuga, 2006

Artist statement

The concept of the landscape as architecture has become, for me, an act of imagination. I remember looking at buildings made of stone, and thinking, there has to be an interesting landscape somewhere out there, because these stones had to have been taken out of the quarry one block at a time.

I had never seen a dimensional quarry, but I envisioned an inverted cubed architecture on the side of a hill. I went in search of it, and when I had it on my ground glass I knew that I had arrived. It’s an organic architecture created by our pursuit of raw materials. Open-pit mines, funnelling down, were to me like inverted pyramids. Photographing quarries was a deliberate act of going out to try to find something in the world that would match the kinds of forms that were in my imagination but unseen in real life — the idea of inverted skyscrapers.

We are surrounded by all kinds of consumer goods, and yet we are profoundly detached from the sources of those things. Our lifestyles are made possible by industries all around the world, but we take them for granted as the background to our existence. I feel that by showing those places that are normally outside our experience, but very much a part of our everyday lives, I can add to our understanding of who we are and what we are doing. Ultimately what I’m looking for are interesting places and moments to embody my poetic narrative of the transfigured landscape, the industrial supply line and what that means in our life.

About the photographer


1955, St. Catharines, Canada



Based in

Ontario, Canada

About Edward Burtynsky

Edward Burtynsky is known as one of Canada’s most respected photographers. His 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, the Bibliotèque Nationale in Paris, the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

Born in 1955 of Ukrainian heritage in St. Catharines, Ontario, Burtynsky is a graduate of Ryerson University (Bachelor of Applied Arts in Photography) and studied Graphic Art at Niagara College in Welland. He links his early exposure to the sites and images of the General Motors plant in his hometown to the development of his photographic work. His imagery explores the intricate link between industry, nature and humanity’s impact upon the Earth.

In 1985, Burtynsky also 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. Mr Burtynsky also sits on the board of directors for Toronto’s international photography festival, Contact and The Ryerson Gallery and Research Center.

Exhibitions include Oil (2009) at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. (five-year international touring show), Manufactured Landscapes at the National Gallery of Canada (touring from 2003 – 2005), Before the Flood (2003), and China (toured 2005 – 2008). Burtynsky’s visually compelling works have recently been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions across Canada, in the United States, Europe and Asia.

An active lecturer on photographic art, Mr Burtynsky’s speaking engagements include the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C, the George Eastman House in Rochester, NY, The Canadian Center for Architecture in Montreal, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the TED conference – Idea City, and Ryerson University in Toronto. His images have appeared in various periodicals, among them: Art in America, Art News, The Smithsonian, Harper’s Magazine, Flash Art, Blind Spot, Art Forum, Saturday Night, Canadian Art, Playboy, National Geographic Society and the New York Times.

Mr. Burtynsky’s distinctions include the TED Prize, The Outreach award at the Rencontres d’Arles, The Flying Elephant Fellowship, Applied Arts Magazine book awards, and the Roloff Beny Book award. In 2006 he was awarded the title of Officer of the Order of Canada and given an honorary degree; Doctor of Laws, from Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.