In Conversation

By Alvarez, Francisco | ROM Magazine, Spring 2011 | Go to article overview

In Conversation


Alvarez, Francisco, ROM Magazine


EDWARD BURTYNSKY, one of Canada's most acclaimed photographers and advocate for sustainable development, speaks with Francisco Alvarez, managing director of the ROM's Institute for Contemporary Culture, about this season's ICC exhibition Edward Burtynsky: Oil.

Francisco Alvarez: How was this exhibition first conceived?

Edward Burtynsky: In the mid 1990s I started to think about what was at the core of the large-scale images of mines, factories, etc. that I was photographing. I realized that it was the world's vast reserves of cheap energy that allowed the explosive growth we've seen over the past century. Later I photographed oil being extracted and the motor-based culture and urban environments that result. Over 12 years, this evolving arc of ideas led to the exhibition.

FA: What message do you hope your photographs will convey?

EB: We think we know the consequences of this unsustainable growth in oil dependency, but I hope this exhibition will cause visitors to take a sober second look at what we are building with our limited energy envelope. After all, one of the causes of the fall of the Roman Empire was that they denuded their forests, their main source of energy. Our civilization is more vulnerable than any other in history in its dependence on easily available oil. The solution is complex, and conservation has been very slow to take hold in our society. I hope this exhibition encourages people to contemplate a more realistic future.

FA: How does Canada compare to other countries with respect to stewardship of our natural resources? …

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