I signed up to see "Manufactured Landscapes" expecting to see more of the same kind of scenery-type shots that I like to take myself. I wasn't expecting to see man-made landscapes with such stunning color, beautiful composition, open vastness of space, and man's utter mutilation of his environment in his quest to modernize his lifestyle, at any cost.
We take our progress as a country so much for granted, that we don't ask the hard questions regarding the cost that we are paying to get there. This movie really showed me how small our planet is, and that everything that we take from the earth must be returned to it in some other metamorphic state; usually landfill garbage and recycling. One man's garbage is another man's raw materials.
We can only see where we've come from when we look at where others are starting from. It seems that every other day we are hearing how China is becoming the next super power in the world and the largest potential economic boom on the planet. But we don't realize how much it is costing everyone else in environmental damage as China desperately tries to play "catch up" with the rest of the world, at any cost.
Ed Burtynsky's images not only show us the emerging "new" industrialized Chinese workforce, but also gives us a glimpse at our own rudimentary and ugly past as we struggled to modernize our own society. With the largest population in the world, China is going through severe growing pains that it can hardly keep up with. The city of Shanghai alone is estimated to grow at a rate of 3 - 5 million people PER YEAR for the next few years. It is the fastest growing city in the WORLD! The real cost to the Chinese is shown in its culture, its living standards, and in the faces of its people. In some of his images, Ed Burtynski has captured the expressions of people who are the workforce where robotics and machines rule in the Western world. In some cases, their expressions are as hollow and lifeless as the machines that will eventually replace this vast army of human labour. China is not the only country exposed in this documentary by Jennifer Baichwal. Similar situations are also shown playing out in Bangeldesh, and in the heart of the U.S.A. as well. In his work, Ed has tried to remain neutral in his portrayal of this awakening giant of a country, leaving the viewer to come to their own soul-searching conclusions.
Landscape photography is one of my favorite subjects to shoot, and Ed's ability to draw starkly beautiful images from his subject matter is a testament to his talent. It's the WAY he lays out his observation of man's blind destruction of his planet for the sake of "getting ahead", that exposes our own recklessness and disregard for the very ground we depend on. Everyone should see this remarkable video.