And I don't mean my own prosaic banal snapshots but the luscious color, sexy, large-format even-a-tire-dump-looks-good-seductive photos by Edward Burtynsky. Via Treehugger, Burtynsky has a new book on quarries. Is it gorgeous? Yes. Do I agree with his philosophy? as set forth by him at Treehugger:
We are surrounded by all kinds of consumer goods, yet we are profoundly detached from the sources of those things. Our lifestyles are make possible by industries all around the world, but we take them for granted, as background to our experience. I feel that by showing those places that are normally out side our experience, but very much a part of our everyday lives, I can add to our understanding fo who we are and what we are doing.
Well said indeed! The vast majority of us are unaware of how processes in our industrial world actually happen.
But does his book actually increase our understanding? And increase our isolation from the physical processes of the world? Do Burtynsky's assemblages show the process and not just an ambiguous slice? I don't know. I haven't read the book. But based on the absolutely beautiful photos shown on Burtynsky's site, I wonder. For example, it's stunning:
But what does it mean? What's the backstory? the current situation? and the future curve? How many people work there? All men? How long have they worked there (average age?) The black disscoloration -- what's that? Is that blue box a porta-potty? What's happening at the inactive section? How long does it take to remove blocks? And what kind of rock is tht anyway? The questions go on and on. I don't think you can say much by the image alone. Unless Burtynsky's photos are amplified by words, by captions, by explanation and interpretation, his work is just pretty pictures which does not, by his own standard, increase "understanding."
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but even just a few hundred words in addition can amplify that photo into ten thousand.
So I will take a look at his book the library and get a sense of what he has done. The pictures are stunning but without words, text. explanation. interpretation. and even opinion, the punch line is missing.