Queen's Quarterly

Queen's Quarterly
Queen's Quarterly

Edward Burtynsky


Winter 2019 - Burtynsky

Five Views of Catastrophe

On April 20, 2010, off the coast of Louisiana, an explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig killed 11 workers and forced the rest of the rig’s crew to evacuate. After burning for a day and a half, the rig sank into the Gulf of Mexico, and soon a massive oil slick began to spread from the site.

    Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky, who has spent decades chronicling the effects of human activities on the environment, arrived on the coast shortly afterwards and began capturing images of one of the worst ecological disasters in history …

This article first appeared in Queen’s Quarterly 117/4 (Winter 2010).


Edward Burtynsky is regarded as one of the world’s most accomplished contemporary photographers. His works are included in the collections of over 60 major museums around the world. Major (touring) exhibitions include: Anthropocene (2018); Water (2013), organized by the New Orleans Museum of Art and the Contemporary Art Center, Louisiana; Oil (2009), at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington DC; China (2005, five-year tour); and Manufactured Landscapes (2003), National Gallery of Canada. Film collaborations include Jennifer Baichwal’s Manufactured Landscapes (2006); Watermark (2013); and the third film in the trilogy, ANTHROPOCENE: The Human Epoch, which opened in theatres across Canada in October 2018.