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Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Edward Burtynsky: Automotive Detritus


Burning Tire Pile #1, near Stockton, California, USA, 1999

Oxford Tire Pile #9a, Westley, California, USA, 1999

Oxford Tire Pile #9b,
Westley, California, USA, 1999


 Oxford Tire Pile #4, Westley, California, USA, 1999


Oxford Tire Pile #8, Westley, California, USA, 1999

Densified Oil Filters #1
, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, 1997


Densified Oil Drums #4, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, 1997


Scrap Auto Engines #11, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, 1997


Ferrous Bushling #18, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, 1997


Ferrous Bushling #17, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, 1997

Auto Wreckers #2,
Tucson, Arizona, USA, 2006


Auto Wreckers #1, Tucson, Arizona, USA, 2006

Photos by Edward Burtynsky, from Edward Burtynsky Photographic Works


Chris said...

I have no resources for dealing with these beautiful pictures. Oxford Tire Pile #8 captures the way in which the piles enclose the mind. The parti-colored oil drums and ferrous bushings instantly summon thoughts of ship-breakers in Alang. See, e.g., "Densified" -- a new word to conjure with.

Hazen said...

Viewing the enormity of all this human spewage, one wishes desperately for limits, for a simple sense of dignity for life. But the beat goes on. The horror is not yet complete. Too much of everything is still not enough. We struggle to find the middle and keep it close. Burtynsky’s images have a terrible beauty; they’re pictures of a Joycean nightmare from which I, for one, struggle to awake.

TC said...

Edward Burtynsky's work is at once beautiful, arresting and alarming in its terrible implications for the planet.

"... enclose the mind."

"The horror..."


For more Burtynsky:

Pink Beehive

Rock Cuts: Edward Burtynsky / William Henry Jackson

Edward Burtynsky: Irreconcilable Emotions: Aerial Views of the Gulf Spill

Edward Burtynsky: Oil: Extraction and Refinement

Edward Burtynsky: Oil: Transportation and Motor Culture

Edward Burtynsky: The End of Oil

dalriada9 said...


Where the jackals get fat the ships
sail on forever

through shifting banks

as rusting hulks
obedient to the currents
and the waves:
a testament to waste
if you like
seeking an elusive beauty
has brought you to these shores

and far
from anyone

ACravan said...

Extraordinary (I think that's an ok one-word description) as Burtynsky's work always is, I think this subject was best and most completely covered by the photographer who created the classic Louvin Brothers album cover, Satan Is Real, for Capitol in 1959. Shot in a rock quarry in front of a tire fire and featuring a large plywood representation of Satan himself, it speaks to me awake and in dreams. Amazingly, the picture is said to have been conceived by Ira Louvin (a sort of mandolin-Pete Townshend) himself toward the end of his short, stormy life. Sadly, I read that this iconic photo has become an "internet meme." I'm unhappy when I hear anything referred to as a "meme." Great album too. Thanks, as always, for assembling this. The other day there was a horrendous car fire/van fire on the approach to the Walt Whitman Bridge in Philadelphia. Spontaneous combustion incidents say so much. Curtis

TC said...

Edward Burtynsky talks about his work (including his series on shipbreaking in Bangladesh)

Edward Burtynsky: Ted Talk

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

Telling photographs reminding us no one’s listening except too few.

TC said...

Today's problematic heap of junk... yesterday's gas-guzzling, air-fouling, metal-overloaded, status-signifying dreamboat.

Show Your Stripes!

Nin Andrews said...

As usual, you show the issue so beautifully. It's hard to look away, and yet--

I remember the Ford Mustang we got as a kid--it had bucket seats--really exciting for the few weeks before it, too, smelled of cow pies and skunked dogs and the like, the way every car did on our farm . . .

The romance of the automobile, and the aftermath of the romance . . . I always picture some futuristic person reconstructing who we are. Surely these cars would be our gods or our angels . . .

TC said...

OK, Nin, in your honour I have just added a Mustang at the bottom here.

Though the appeal to Sterling and Wedgwood mingles oddly with cow pies and skunked dogs.

And while we all have traces of carburetor exhaust in our memory cells, for me, I fear, the romance of cars is now entirely (like so many forms of American romance)... exhausted.



Just finding this this morning -- such a compendium of Burtynsky's work you've put together, now including these piles of tires in Westley (is this where they all end up, before the pire in Stockton) ? ? ?


light coming into fog against invisible
ridge, song sparrow calling from branch
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

to call it, resemble things
that were really here

on the left, green prospect,
figure which is color

grey white sky above windblown channel,
shadowed green of ridge across from it

TC said...

Steve, there are tire piles, and therefore tire fires, all around this great land of ours. Or so

to call it, resemble things
that were really here

on the left, green prospect,

[replaced by]

figure which is color

of Hell itself.

Many tire fires start by arson or spontaneous combustion in the tire piles. The 1999 Westley conflagration however appears to have been ignited by a lightning strike. It burned out of control for thirty days. Pyrolitic oil oozed from the hellish blaze into a nearby stream, which also then ignited.

Tire fires release dark, thick smoke laden with carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and toxic products of butadiene and styrene. But hey, Zippy, aren't those all necessary ingredients in our wonderful Way of Life?

Normally tire fire sites do not become tourist destinations. But hey, some people notoriously will go anywhere, do and/or look at (and be poisoned by) anything.

Steve you are now entering picturesque Westley (Stanislaus County).

Curtis Faville said...

Artists and writers sit on the fringe and wring their hands over the indulgence and ugly waste.

We're all part of the bargain. Setting up an artificial dialectic in which "we" get to denounce "them" is just part of the larger story of complacence and hypocritical self-justification.

Sitting in front of a computer screen is no more ethical than shoveling shit in Louisiana. Certainly less so, in the final analysis.

TC said...


Duty calls yet again!