Artist’s Statement

“…. mass consumerism… and the resulting degradation of our environment intrinsic to the process of making things to keep us happy and fulfilled frightens me. I no longer see my world as delineated by countries, with borders, or language, but as 7 billion humans living off a single, finite planet.” – Edward Burtynsky


Bao Steel is the sixth largest steel producer in the world. The company employs 15,600 people. Almost all of Bao Steel’s iron ore is imported, being sourced in Australia, Brazil, South Africa and India.


In the province of Guangdong, one can drive for hours along numerous highways that reveal a virtually unbroken landscape of factories and workers’ dormitories. These new ‘manufacturing landscapes’ in the southern and eastern parts of China produce more and more of the world’s goods and have become the habitat for a diverse group of companies and millions of busy workers.


State-owned enterprises are rapidly being demolished and rebuilt at industrial parks outside the city, along with many other new factories. Property once used by these immense old factories is now being designated as residential and commercial, spurring real estate frenzy in Shenyang. Inexpensive labor from the countryside, important as it is to China’s growth as a trading nation, is one major facet of its success. Just as important is a rising industrial production capability. China now plays a central role in the global supply chain for the world’s multinational corporations.


E-waste is hazardous and its processing is a high-risk endeavor even in state-of-the-art facilities. In China, e-waste recycling is, for the most part, not yet a refined industry. Once the scrap arrives at its destination, workers use their hands and primitive tools to pick apart the junked computers and salvage precious components. In the process they expose themselves and their environment to toxic elements such as lead, mercury and cadmium.


With over 12,000 workers using 500,000 tons of steel, Qili port shipyards build 232 to 250 ships per year. According to the Chinese Commission for Science, Technology and and National Defense, by 2015 China is expected to become the world’s largest shipbuilder, with annual output reaching 24 million deadweight tons, or 35 per cent of the world’s total.


The images in the China series communicate the enormity of the transition that is taking place there as the country moves increasingly towards a large-scale urbanization and more workers relocate for employment in the manufacturing industries. Not only are new cities emerging but immense urban renewal efforts are also underway.


Building mega dams in the 21st century has gathered much global criticism and is central to a growing debate. To make room for the Three Gorges Dam, approximately 1.13 million people must be relocated and their livelihoods challenged. It is the largest peacetime evacuation in history. Fertile agricultural lands and important cultural/historic sites will be found submerged under a vast reservoir.