A Single, Finite Planet: Sitting Down With Photographer Edward Burtynsky

By Jordan Bishop

When it comes to finding such locations, Burtynsky doesn’t just seek out any instance of the given phenomenon: he pursues the world’s largest-scale example without regard for location or difficulty of access. When I inquire about the background work necessary to shooting a particularly eye-catching image on his studio wall – a godlike view of a seemingly-endless array of abalone and sea cucumber farms in the East China Sea – the thought process he presents is remarkably straightforward: begin by contemplating the role of water and the myriad ways humans use water for his second award-winning documentary, Watermark; identify the fishing industry as a salient theme within that narrative; discern that farm fishing is a larger global protein delivery system than open-sea fishing, and thus a more intriguing study; pinpoint China as home to the largest fish farms on Earth; visit the precise location of the world’s largest collection of fish farms, which sit in Luoyuan Bay just off the coast of Fujian province. The resultant photo, captured in one eight-hundredth of a second, was years in the making.

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