Thursday, 17 May 2012

Photographing Oil

Bonneville #1 Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, USA, 2008

The Guardian website recently featured a great gallery of work by the photographer Edward Burtynsky who has spent fifteen years working on a project looking at the complicated world of oil.

What didn't come across in the small selection of 16 images featured on the Guardian, was the sheer depth of the photography project. Burtynsky has divided the project into four distinct sections - Extraction and Refinement, Detroit Motor City, Transportation and Motor culture (from which the above image is taken) and the end of oil. Virtually every aspect of our relationship, our dependence and our addiction to oil is covered in this extensive project. Even the design office of the Model T Ford has been photographed.

Shipbreaking #13 Chittagong, Bangladesh, 2000

The impact on the environment seems a common theme thoughout the project. Images of the Oxford tire pile taken in California in 1999 gives us an uncomfortable reminder that there is a hefty price tag for consuming oil - often a price we choose to ignore.

Many images from the 'the end of oil' gallery have the distinct look of a post apocalyptic world, a landscape of waste not that far removed from scenery in the Mad Max film series. Mountains of waste litter the tire dump and a beach in Bangladesh is covered with the strange metal debris sculptures of scrapped ships.

Edward Bertynsky's photography provides a fascinating broad insight into the world of oil that we are all consuming in some shape or form.  The photographs provide a chilling visual record that we waste, destroy and contaminate huge amounts of our planet and its resources, just so we can fill up at the petrol pump. What's worse is that the demand for oil is growing daily.

Sadly there are no direct URL links to the various galleries, but you can find the oil series of images along with more great industry related photography projects in the works section of the photographer's website.

Edward Bertynsky's photography can be found on his website at

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