Pacific Tides
My name is Thomas Sturm and I'm a programmer, photographer and writer.

Now go outside and look at the sky.

Manufactured Landscapes

This week we saw an interesting documentary here in our neighborhood cinema: Manufactured Landscapes. It's a film around the photographic work of Edward Burtynsky who has spent the last decade documenting the landscapes we humans make for ourselves - the cities, factories, open-pit mines and waste dumps that now blot out a large part of the natural landscapes in many areas on this globe.

It's a fascinating, albeit a little bit long-ish, documentary on two levels. One is the insight into how Burtynsky creates - and manufactures - his photos. It was interesting to see how much effort goes into orchestrating large crowds to get that just-right shot with thousands of factory workers. But much more interesting are the monumental photos themselves, all taken with large-format cameras that allow the video camera to dive into the photos with their seemingly endless amount of tiny detail.

Burtynsky's photos are breathtaking in their wide-angle approach to inhumanly large-scale industrialization that we can now see in China, where hundreds of thousands of people are working in one factory alone, a place where factory floors seem to stretch to the horizon and where recycling workers are dwarfed in front of mountainous garbage dumps.

Seeing the scale of the manufacturing industry in China one can not avoid the feeling that we have reached the peak. The limited amount of oil in this century will never again allow us to produce the cheapest goods ten thousand miles away from the consumers. iPods and cars will survive this transition for a few more decades thanks to their higher price, but the days of containerships full of toothbrushes and plastic toys are probably numbered.

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