"In 1997 I had what I refer to as my oil epiphany," says Edward Burtynsky. "It occurred to me that the vast, human-altered landscapes that I pursued and photographed for over 20 years were only made possible by the discovery of oil and the mechanical advantage of the internal combustion engine. It was then that I began the oil project. Over the next 10 years I researched and photographed the largest oil fields I could find. I went on to make images of refineries, freeway interchanges, automobile plants and the scrap industry that results from the recycling of cars. Then I began to look at the culture of oil, the motor culture, where masses of people congregate around vehicles, with vehicle events as the main attraction."
Oil could be considered the Canadian's masterwork then. Featuring 100 colour plates of his highly detailed large format images, the meticulously produced book (published by Steidl, priced £85) is arranged into three chapters, Extraction & Refinement, Transportation & Motor Culture and The End of Oil, and is accompanied by a series of essays.
"It is ambitious in scale and message," says Philippe Garner, chair of the Best Photography Book judging panel in this year's And/Or Awards, which named Oil as its 2010 winner, chosen from a shortlist that also included two other Steidl books, a Paul Graham retrospective and Looking In: Robert Frank's The Americans, edited by Sara Greenough, together with Japanese Photobooks of the 1960s and 70s, published by Aperture.
"He tells the social, political and ecological story of how oil has fuelled the mechanisation, and threatens the destruction of our world. The theme is highly topical; its telling is magisterial, haunting and highly effective. This is an important book."
The 55-year-old photographer puts his ambitions more simply: "These images can be seen as notations by one artist contemplating the world as it is made possible through this vital energy resource and the cumulative effects of industrial evolution."
For more information, visit www.andorbookawards.org.
Most Popular Articles
Updating your subscription status
We have a vacancy for a Key Account Manager working on The British Journal of Photography
Magnet Harlequin, one of the UK's leading Creative Production Agencies is seeking a new Head of Photography.
We have opportunities for two experienced photographic, audio or video technicians.