On Sunday, I went to see a documentary called Manufactured Landscapes -
Edward Burtynsky is a Canadian photographer who for many years has been doing these huge (4 feet x 4 feet) photographs of industrial landscapes.
The National Film Board and director Jennifer Baichwal got together to go with Burtynsky on a trip to China where he wanted to photograph the Chinese industrial world.
It was an amazing film. It begins in a Chinese factory, the camera scanning from row after row of workers, each of them doing (by hand) the tiniest of jobs. I've never seen a building even close to as big as this one, I bet it's a half mile long and it's all one big room.
There is little dialogue in this movie, the director lets the images speak for themselves. She will pan the camera over a landscape (such as the interior of the factory) and then the camera will stop and we'll figure out, as it pans out on a single image, that we're looking at one of Burtynsky's amazingly detailed and beautiful photographs.
We see factories, villages that deal in e-waste (the computers that the western world discards), the Three Gorges dam, shipyards that are building dozens of ships at the same time. For a short period of time, the film leaves China and goes to Bangladesh to see the shipwrecking beach - the photograph above is from that beach. Young men (it's such hard and dangerous work that hardly anyone over 30 works on this beach) walk out through the mud to these ships and begin to salvage them - almost totally by hand. Men with only one leg, men with other injuries, all figure out a way to wreck these massive ships and turn them into salvage.
Burtynsky manages to take industrial landscapes - where the world has been laid to waste - and turn them into beauty. This is a movie well worth seeing. More than once. And if you get a chance to see an exhibit of Burtynsky's paintings, don't miss it.