Edward Burtynsky’s View From Above

Edward Burtynsky
Edward Burtynsky
Dryland Farming #24, Monegros County, Aragon, Spain, 2010

Edward Burtynsky while on location in Spain, 2010.

“I’m always interested in how humans shape the landscape,” says photographer Edward Burtynsky, a master at documenting the effects of industry on the nature for more than 20 years. “All my work is really about the pristine landscape being pushed back as a result of the expanding human footprint. And I kept thinking of farming as one of the largest terraforming events that humans have exercised on the planet.”

That interest is the inspiration behind Dryland Farming—on view at Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery—one of two exhibitions paying tribute to Burtynsky’s career in New York City this fall. The other, on display at Howard Greenberg Gallery, takes a broader, retrospective look at the photographer’s 25-year career.

Dryland Farming features topographic landscape images from the Monegros region in northeastern Spain that the photographer shot from a helicopter about 2,000 feet above. “The colors and the shapes were like nothing I’d ever seen before,” Burtynsky says. “It reminded me of the abstract paintings of the 20th century, like [Pablo] Picasso’s Guernica.”

Burtynsky photographed the series in 2010, and the work is part of a larger project called Water, which the lensman began in 2008 and expects to complete in 2013. “I like to take a theme and start building ideas around it and trying to find the visual correlations to those ideas,” Burtynsky says. “Water was an interesting one to try to capture visually, especially if you look at agriculture in all its different forms as a subject that relates to water. The incredible farms and farming methodology in the Monegros region in Spain were certainly a huge part of that.”

Dryland Farming will be on view at Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery in New York from Oct. 26-Dec. 10. The Howard Greenberg Gallery exhibition in New York is on view from Oct. 27-Dec.10.

Feifei Sun is a reporter at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @Feifei_Sun or on Facebook. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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