Edward Burtynsky: Essential Elements

Edward Burtynsky, William A. Ewing


Edward Burtynsky (b. 1955) is one of a generation of photographers who seek to portray the visible outcomes of a globalized economy and humankind’s impact on environments around the world. He has achieved global recognition with his large-scale photographs and project-based monographs, such as Quarries, Oil, and Water, all of which have resulted in popular touring exhibitions and, in the case of Water, a feature-length documentary film entitled Watermark. However, while Burtynsky’s global standing is without question, no comprehensive retrospective of his career to date exists.

Edited and curated by William A. Ewing, Edward Burtynsky: Essential Elements provides an overview of Burtynsky’s work across four decades, including 140 photographs of both iconic and previously unpublished images. It conceives of Burtynsky’s oeuvre as five free-flowing sections that provide a sense of both his visual language and his exploration of the dilemmas at the heart of our globalized world. Each of the five sections is interleaved with a selection of texts from previous publications and articles on Burtynsky that work in concert with the photographs to provide a complete understanding of Burtynsky’s view of the world.

With an introduction by William A. Ewing and an essay by Joshua Schuster, this book provides both an entirely new way of seeing Burtynsky’s work.


Getting up close to a Burtynsky photograph is a visceral encounter…Your eyes scan the surface as the image almost envelops.

— WSJ Magazine

Over three decades in aerials and other big-picture exposés, Edward Burtynsky has surveyed the globe, from river basins to oil fields to urban highways, often depicting gorgeous views of manmade pathos.

— American Photo


Edward Burtynsky


Edward Burtynsky is a Canadian photographer. His previous publications include Water, Oil, Quarries, China, and Manufactured Landscapes.

William A. Ewing


William A. Ewing has been an author, lecturer, curator of photography, and museum director for more than forty years. His many publications on photography include The Body (1994), Landmark (2014) and Edward Burtynsky: Essential Elements (2016).