People vs the Planet

By Jennifer Baichwal, Edward Burtynsky and Nicholas de Pencier
The Walrus

Forests are indispensable to life on this planet. Nearly 1.6 billion people rely on them as sources of food, income, or shelter. Humans have altered over 75 percent of ice-free land on the planet with agriculture, mining, urbanization, and industrialization. And around half of the world’s original forests have been cleared, fragmented, or degraded for human use. These are hard statistics to conceptualize, especially in Canada, where forest spans coast to coast. The boreal, which is the primarily coniferous stretch of dense forest that spans the northern hemisphere above the fiftieth parallel, is a complex landscape of vibrant biodiversity supporting not only the lives of flora and fauna but humans as well.

Read the full essay here, or pick up the November issue of The Walrus on stands now!

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Edward Burtynsky surveys the devastating scale of man’s footprint on the planet

By Tom Seymour

he Anthropocene photographs are huge, imposing and impossibly detailed, designed to stimulate in us a sense of awe – both of the beauty of the natural world, and the destruction our species has wrought upon it. They are images, the photographer says, ‘of a predator species run amok’. But few realise how personal these photographs are to Edward Burtynsky, nor how much they link to his early life.

Read the full article here.

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The devastating environmental impact of human progress like you've never seen it before

By Nicola Davidson

In 1976, when he was a first-year student of photography at Ryerson Polytechnic Institute, in Toronto, Edward Burtynsky was given an assignment that would come to shape his working life. Instructed to go out and photograph “evidence of man”, he initially thought of ruins. What better evidence of man’s passing than something built a long time ago? But this was Canada, not Athens, and ancient ruins were hard to find. Burtynsky recalled that in his hometown, St. Catharines, there were remnants of the old shipping canals that had connected Lake Erie and Lake Ontario in the 1800s. He began shooting images of the sections he could find: abutments and walls that had once been part of an ambitious man-made system and now served, he thought, as an imprint – evidence of how human beings have irrevocably reshaped the land.

By and large, Burtynsky is still at work on that first-year assignment, only now he uses better cameras and criss-crosses the globe. His images are vast and uncanny landscapes of quarries, mines, solar plants, trash piles, deforestation and sprawl – pictures of depletion and desecration that are testament to the collective impact of humankind. Yet Burtynsky’s photos are not depressing. They are reverential and painterly, capturing gargantuan industrial processes in fine detail. He achieves such a quality by shooting in high resolution and by being an enthusiastic adopter of new technologies, such as drones and 3D imaging. He has started to think of himself not so much as a photographer but a “lens-based visual artist”. “Now when I’m in the field I’m working with still cameras, film cameras, and shooting VR and for AR,” he says. “There could be five different forms. I just apply what I believe is the best lens-based experience for the subject that I’m looking at.”

Today, Burtynsky is Canada’s best-known photographer, and his work has been acquired by 60 museums, including the MoMA and Tate Modern. Over the past decade or so, he has been immersed in The Anthropocene Project, a multimedia collaboration with the filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier, comprises photographs, a feature film, a book and simultaneous exhibitions at the Art Gallery of Ontario and National Gallery of Canada.

Read the full article here.

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The Anthropocene Project

By Bel Jacobs
HowNow Magazine

In face of current environmental events, debate around whether or not mankind now exists in the Anthropocene  - an epoch in which human are the single most defining force on the planet and introduced in 2000 by chemist and Nobel Prize winner Paul Jozef Crutzen- seems to akin to re-arranging shells on the beach before a tidal wave. From carbon dioxide emissions to rising sea levels, human impact is undeniable and, almost always, devastating. 

There is no uncertainty about the moniker for the pointedly named Anthropocene Project. Documentary makers Nicholas de Pencier and Jennifer Baichwal and photographer Edward Burtynsky have travelled the world, filming the effects that mankind has had on the planet to create a multi-media project that includes a lavish Steidl art book, a gut-wrenching documentary film, an educational programme and Burtynsky’s devastating high resolution murals.

Canadian-born Burtynsky has form in capturing the monumental on film. For over 35 years, he has documented sweeping views of nature drastically altered by human industry. His work occupies the conflicting realms of visual beauty and environmental destruction. “It’s important to me that my pictures are attractive,” Burtynsky told the British Journal of Photography. “But beneath the surface there’s always a bigger, deeper environmental issue.”

Terraforming of the earth through mining, urbanisation, industrialisation and agriculture; the proliferation of dams and the pollution of waterways; the acidification of oceans due to climate change; the pervasive presence of the so-called techno fossils, persistent human materials such as concrete, aluminium and, of course, plastic; unprecedented rates of deforestation and species extinction: the scars humans have left on earth will last long after we have gone.

Read the full article here.

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"The Idea is to Raise People’s Awareness of Issues" - an Interview with Andrea Kunard, Curator of Anthropocene

By Anna Savitskaya
Artdependence Magazine

Two simultaneous, complementary exhibitions of Anthropocene opened on September 28th at the National Gallery of Canada (NCG) and the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). The website dedicated to the exhibition defines Anthropocene as the current proposed geological epoch, in which humans are the primary cause of permanent planetary change. Three major artists: world-renowned photographer Edward Burtynsky and multiple award-winning filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier have created a powerful combination of photographs, film installations and augmented reality (AR) points. Journeying us to places drastically changed by human life, suffering by way of climate change, mass extinctions, invasive species, technofossils, the terraforming of land, the redirection of water, and anthroturbation, etc.

ArtDependence Magazine had a chance to talk to Andrea Kunard, the curator of Anthropocene at the NGC about the project.

Read the interview here.

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The photographer sizing up the planet’s human footprint

By Leslie Hook
Financial Times

The word “ Anthropocene” first entered popular use about 20 years ago as scientists looked for a way to describe a new geologic era, one defined by the impact of humans. Earlier eras have been linked to climatic shifts caused by asteroids or ice ages, but now it is human activity that is reshaping the Earth.

That is the theme that Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky has taken for a new project that spans the globe, chronicling natural and unnatural worlds. His focus is on the indelible human fingerprint on the planet — whether in tunnels, dams, mines, forests or megacities.

“These landscapes are human landscapes,” he explains. “We need to own these landscapes, they are ours — they are not some bad corporation’s landscapes — they are our landscapes. There is an urgency for all of us to own the problem.”

Read the full article here.

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‘It’s hard at this particular moment to be optimistic’ – Edward Burtynsky on the future of the planet

By Fatema Ahmed
Apollo Magazine

The Canadian photographer talks to Fatema Ahmed about The Anthropocene Project – two exhibitions, a film and a book exploring man’s effect on Earth and capturing the spirit of what some scientists consider to be a new geological epoch.

When did you become interested in the Anthropocene, and how did this project with the film-makers Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier come about?
In 2010 or even earlier I was in a National Geographic article about the Anthropocene, which was where I first heard the word – the whole magazine was devoted to water. And then Jennifer said, hey, what about making it a better-known word, because the word packs a lot of ideas into it? One of the core ideas is the existential threat to not only humans, but all other life forms on the planet. The Anthropocene doesn’t necessarily have to end in a negative way – we both agreed at the time that we shouldn’t paint this as the end of the world as we know it. It could be an epoch with a reasonable outcome if we can get our act together, or it could be a terrible one. We wanted to keep that open-endedness in all our thinking in the design of the project.

Can you explain the different elements that make up the project?
From the outset, we knew that it would be an exhibition, that it would be a book and it would be a film, because that’s what we did with Watermark[2013]. The new thing we added was that whereas before I was brought into [Baichwal’s and de Pencier’s] world of film, this time I’m bringing them into the world of art, the museum world. They’ve done some museum work in the past, but now it’s going to be a much more engaged stage for them, with video installations. We’ve also worked with augmented reality and a lot on virtual reality.

Read the full interview here.

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Anthropocene film captures a world of devastation

By Mike Devlin
Times Colonist

A new documentary from a team that includes acclaimed director Jennifer Baichwal looks at the impact modern civilization has had on Earth over thousands of years, and the results aren’t pretty.

There have been significant hydrologic, atmospheric, biospheric and geological shifts during the Holocene period, most of which have been brought about by humankind. The effect on every system of Earth has been profound.

Scientists believe we have moved past the 12,000-year-old Holocene to the Anthropocene, the current geological timescale in which climate change and global warming have become daily concerns.

Terraforming, the act of altering Earth’s surface for human need, forms the framework for Baichwal’s Anthropocene: The Human Epoch. Among some of the film’s most shocking scenes — from the city of Norilsk, Russia’s most polluted city, to Chile’s Atacama Desert, one of the driest places on Earth — are shots of the heavily logged land just outside Port Renfrew.

“We’re all implicated in all of these landscapes,” Baichwal, who was raised in Victoria and graduated from the University of Victoria, said from her home in Toronto.

Read the full article here

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Interview: Edward Burtynsky Finds New Perspectives on the Anthropocene

By Rachel MacFarlane
FORMAT Magazine

The renowned Canadian photographer discusses his latest work, which uses AR, film, and photography to document environmental change.

October has been a busy month for Edward Burtynsky. Most significantly, the Canadian artist released a new series of his photographs, titled Anthropocene, on until November 3 at Toronto’s Nicholas Metivier Gallery. With collaborators Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier, he also launched the traveling museum exhibition Anthropocene at the Art Gallery of Ontario, and his latest feature length film Anthropocene: The Human Epoch, which is playing at TIFF theaters until October 11th.

Burtynsky is best known for his aerial photography which captures the societal and ecological effect of human systems on the earth, ideas he’s expanded on in previous documentaries Manufactured Landscapes (2006) and Watermark (2013).

We got in touch with Burtynsky to learn more about the Anthropocene Project, and how it revisits themes and locations explored in his earlier works.

Read the full interview here.

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What happens when humans rule the Earth: Documenting the Anthropocene

By Collin Ellis

The trio of filmmakers behind the documentaries Manufactured Landscapes (2006) and Watermark(2013) are back with the visually stunning and sobering Anthropocene: The Human Epoch, which chronicles the impact human activity has had on the planet. An accompanying exhibition will run at the Art Gallery of Ontario until January 6.

We sat down with Jennifer Baichwal, Edward Burtynsky, and Nicholas de Pencier at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival. For the full interview, stay tuned for the new weekly TVO podcast On Docs, which will launch October 25.

What does the word Anthropocene mean?

Jennifer: Anthropocene is the proposed name of our current geological epoch. There's a group of scientists and geologists called the Anthropocene Working Group that has been gathering evidence for 10 years to determine if humans change Earth systems more than all natural processes combined, and their research is showing that that is, in fact, the case. So we are in a time in the Earth's history when humans as a species — although we've only been around 10,000 of 4.5 billion years — have tipped the planet outside its natural limits.

Read the full interview here.

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By Truc Nguyen
NUVO Magazine

This month, Anthropocene—a photography and multimedia art exhibition from artists Edward Burtynsky, Jennifer Baichwal, and Nicholas de Pencieropens simultaneously at the Art Gallery of Ontario and the National Gallery of Canada, the first time the two museums have offered concurrent, complementary shows from the same artists. The Anthropocene Project also encompasses a feature documentary film arriving in theatres next month, a hardcover book from Steidl, and an exhibition of photographs by Burtynsky at the Nicholas Metivier Gallery in Toronto.

An endeavor for which the artists travelled to 46 different locations in 20 countries over the last four years, visiting every continent except Antarctica, the project aims to document and highlight the effect of human activity and industrialization on our planet. “Anthropocene is a word that was coined in 2000 by Paul Crutzen, and it’s a word that tries to describe what humans are doing to the planet, that we’re shifting the planet into another geological epoch,” explains Burtynsky. “Geologists are trying to tell us that we’re actually now a planetary force as a species; all of the work, whether it’s deforestation, or mining, or quarries, or farming, all of these things are key drivers of tipping us into this other state.”

A collaboration between photographer Burtynsky and filmmakers Baichwal and de Pencier, Anthropocene is a follow up to their previous films and creative projects, Manufactured Landscapes (2006) and Watermark (2013). Using both traditional photography processes and newer technology such as augmented reality and satellite imagery, the AGO exhibition showcases sites of human activity and environmental degradation as varied as the burning of a mound of confiscated ivory tusks in Nairobi, a clearcut forest on Vancouver Island, and a potash mine in Russia.

Read the full article here.

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Beautiful pictures of terrible things

By Liz Braun
Toronto Sun

The end of the world is beautiful to look at.

See for yourself at  Anthropocene: The Human Epoch, a new film that offers magnificent pictures of the mess humans have made on this planet.

Anthropocene is the name of the current geological age, a period in which the dominant influence on the environment is human activity.

Documenting that activity are filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal and Nick de Pencier, and photographer Edward Burtynsky. Anthropocene: The Human Epoch is their third film together after Manufactured Landscapes (2006) and Watermark (2013).

They visited six continents and 20 countries to create this film and a complementary exhibition open now at Toronto’s Art Gallery of Ontario and the National Gallery in Ottawa. (The exhibits include stunning new photographs from Burtynsky, film installations from Baichwal and de Pencier and some frankly astonishing 3D virtual reality experiences — such as a visit with the very last Northern White Rhino, now extinct.)

Read the full article here.

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Sprawling Anthropocene project shows humanity’s enormous impact on the planet

By Murray Whyte
Toronto Star

The camera sweeps slowly, right to left, along a towering ridge of ochre stone. The sense is of the monumental — the kind of majesty and scale that only the primal force of violent nature, operating at planetary scale, could yield.

Then you see it, and the world turns suddenly sideways: An enormous, churning machine enters the frame, like some kind of apocalyptic ferris wheel, carving grooves into the cliffside with its set of jagged claws. That towering bluff of dusty earth seems to shrink before your eyes as it yields to the clanking monstrosity gnawing at its hide.

But it’s not the only thing taking a hit here. That built-in sense of feeling tiny and insignificant in the face of nature’s grandeur has been turned thoroughly upside-down. As the scene makes clear, the dominant force shaping the planet at is most colossal scale is now us.

That’s the shorthand version of the thesis for Anthropocene, a film and a set of sprawling exhibitions — one at the Art Gallery of Ontario, the other at the National Gallery of Canada — that opened simultaneously this weekend. Taken together, they’re a full-blooded collaboration from photographer Edward Burtynsky and the filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier, which, while not a new partnership for any of them, is the most seamless one yet.

Read the full article here.

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Anthropocene offers stunning and scary glances at the large-scale changes humanity has made to the planet

By Chris Knight
National Post


Who knew the end of the world could be so beautiful? The latest eco-doc from Jennifer Baichwal (Manufactured Landscapes, Watermark), co-directed by Edward Burtynsky and Nicholas de Pencier, shows viewers some of the large-scale changes we are making to the planet. Like the second sunrise of a hydrogen bomb, they are equal parts stunning and scary.

Take “Bagger 293,” an earth-moving machine working an open-pit coalmine in Germany. Ninety-six metres tall and using 16 megawatts of power, it could scoop up the material needed to build the great pyramid in less than a month. It looks like something out of science-fiction; in fact, you can see one in the background of a shot in TV’s Westworld. The mine is expanding, displacing local residents; but it remains a weirdly beautiful sight.

Not all the film’s segments are doom-and-gloom. Narrated by Alicia Vikander, Anthropocene: The Human Epoch visits an electric-car-battery plant in Michigan, and delivers a time-lapse trip through the 57-kilometre Gotthard Base Tunnel in Switzerland, which will reduce the dangers and pollution of trucking freight along mountain roads. The film opens and closes in Kenya’s Nairobi National Park, where mammoth mounds of elephant tusks are set ablaze to stop them being sold on the black market.

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Age of Anthropocene: Art highlights human destruction of Earth

By Jesse Tahirali & Marlene Leung
CTV News

Rainbow mountains of coloured plastic. Artificial cliffs carved into a coal mine. Sheets of pale dirt shaved clean from a shrinking forest.

Humanity’s fingerprints are pressed all over the Earth’s surface, and famed Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky is putting them on full display at the Art Gallery of Ontario and the National Gallery of Art this fall.

His new exhibit uses photo murals, video and augmented reality displays to take a wide-angle look at the “human signature” we’ve left on our planet.

Read the full article here.

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Cutting-edge artistry ushers in troubling new era

By Sandra Abma
CBC News

This week on the list: a mind-boggling look at humankind's impact on our planet, a showcase of animation's best and brightest, and a big sound on a couple of small stages.


Anthropocene, on now at the National Gallery of Canada, is a vivid voyage into the environmental catastrophe wrought by we humans in our pursuit of minerals, industrialization and urbanization.

At the centre of this interactive multi-media experience are the immense, high-resolution photographs of Edward Burtynsky, simultaneously frightening and eerily beautiful depictions of deforestation and urban blight.

The images have been been augmented with 3D technology that can be activated by a smart phone or tablet, allowing viewers to virtually step inside the images. (If you don't own one, tablets are available for loan the exhibition entrance.)

Read the full article here.

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Review: Anthropocene is a shocking and beautiful documentary

By Kate Taylor
The Globe and Mail


Vast rectangular ponds of foul yellow water lie evaporating in the Chilean desert; they will produce the lithium that powers electric-car batteries. A gorgeous red-and-grey rock is imprinted with an eye-catching circular pattern: It’s the mark of Russian potash mining, extracting one of the fertilizers that is permanently altering the composition of the Earth’s soil. Anthropocene: The Human Epoch is packed with such shattering images and astounding ironies. As documentarians Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier pursue their collaboration with photographer Edward Burtynsky in a third film (following Manufactured Landscapes and Watermark), they strike a delicate yet purposeful balance between observation and advocacy. Both shocking and beautiful, the film impresses itself on the viewer with the awesome scale of the imagery – and with the urgency behind it. We have entered an epoch in which human activity is shaping the planet more than any natural force. Anthropocene bears witness that something’s got to give.

The film Anthropocene: The Human Epoch opens Friday in Toronto, Oct. 5 in Vancouver, Oct. 19 in Montreal and through the fall in other cities.

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Documenting our Man-Made Epoch

The Agenda with Steve Paikin

Aired September 28

Photographer Edward Burtynsky, filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal, and director of photography Nicholas De Pencier join Steve Paikin to discuss "Anthropocene: The Human Epoch." The multifaceted project explores humankind's tremendous effect on planet Earth.

Watch the segment here.

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The directing trio behind Anthropocene hope you walk away enlightened and transformed

By Chris Knight
National Post

The three directors of Anthropocene: The Human Epoch are trying to describe the editing process required to bring an estimated 375 hours –15 days! – of footage down to a 90-minute documentary.

Jennifer Baichwal likens it to a jigsaw puzzle. “Some people have the picture right there,” she says. “And some people look at it once and then hide it. This is like putting a massive puzzle together without ever seeing the picture.”

Edward Burtynsky chimes in: “And it’s got 2,000 pieces that don’t belong.”

Not to be left out, Nicholas de Pencier adds: “And half the pieces don’t actually fit!”

Editing Anthropocene – the title refers to a suggested name for the current geological era, one in which humans are the dominant force on the planet’s ecosystem – was a year-long process, after three years spent travelling to six continents to find material, including mining operations in Germany, the U.S., Italy and Norilsk, in northern Russia; a 57-kilometre rail tunnel in Switzerland; a huge seawall in China (a nation known for its wall-building prowess); and efforts to save endangered species in Kenya.

Read the full article here.

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New exhibit Anthropocene opens at the Art Gallery of Ontario

Metro Morning with Matt Galloway

A new art exhibition opens today at the AGO, looking at how humans have irreversibly transformed the planet. We hear from the three artists at the centre of the project: photographer Edward Burtynsky and filmmakers filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier.

Listen here.

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