Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Manufactured Landscapes

I recently saw Manufactured Landscapes, a documentary that follows photographer Edward Burtynsky as he travels around China (and a little bit in Bangladesh), taking pictures of large-scale human-made landscapes like factories, quarries, the Three Gorges dam, and recycling yards.

The images are captivating - I was absolutely not expecting to be so drawn to images of workers, scrap plastic, mine tailings, and huge piles of coal.

One bit of footage showed a woman's hands assembling an electrical switch box. She manages to put in all sorts of bits of plastic and wire and slot or twist each one into place within seconds. There must have been at least ten different bits to put together but she says she can do four hundred units a day without overtime.

I could have watched that over and over; it was fascinating.

I feel quite odd about the pictures: I found the images disturbing because of what they imply to me about the massive impact that society has on the land and the global ecosystem - and yet... there were a bunch of pictures that I wouldn't mind having on my wall. Burtynsky is able to find amazing beauty where I would have found only destruction and despair.

apes he sees - he just takes fascinating pictures and makes everyone who sees them think.

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