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edward burtynsky clearcut 1

Edward Burtynsky, Clearcut #1, Palm Oil Plantation, Borneo, Malaysia, 2016. Pigment inkjet print, 148.6 x 198.1 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto. © Edward Burtynsky, 2017.


September 28, 2018 – January 6, 2019

Members’ Previews: September 25, 26 & 27

Public Celebration: October 3

Curators’ Circle Preview & Talk: September 24

“Our ambition is for the work to be revelatory, not accusatory, as we examine human influence on the Earth both on a planetary scale and in geological time. The shifting of consciousness is the beginning of change.”

– Edward Burtynsky, Jennifer Baichwal, and Nicholas de Pencier


Anthropocene dramatically illustrates how we, individually and collectively, are leaving a human signature on our world.

World-renowned photographer Edward Burtynsky and filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier have created a powerful series of new photographs, including large scale murals augmented by film extensions, film installations and augmented reality (AR) installations, that take us to places we are deeply connected to – but normally never see.

The artists travelled to countries on every continent, save Antarctica, documenting irreversible marks of human activity. Informed by scientific research, powered by aesthetic vision, inspired by a desire to bear witness, they reveal the scale and gravity of our impact on the planet.

We have reached an unprecedented moment in planetary history. Humans now change the Earth’s systems more than all natural forces combined. This is the central argument of the proposed current geological epoch: the Anthropocene.

Organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Canadian Photography Institute of the National Gallery of Canada, in partnership with Fondazione MAST




Edward Burtynsky, Mushin Market Intersection, Lagos, Nigeria

Edward Burtynsky, Mushin Market Intersection, Lagos, Nigeria, 2016. Mural, 304.8 x 609.6 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto. © Edward Burtynsky, 2018.

Burtynsky, Mushin Market
Edward Burtynsky: Lithium Mines #1, Salt Flats, Atacama Desert, Chile, 2017.

Edward Burtynsky: Lithium Mines #1, Salt Flats, Atacama Desert, Chile, 2017. Pigment inkjet print, 149.5 x 198 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto. © Edward Burtynsky, 2017.

Slideshow - Burtynsky: Lithium Mines 1
edward burtynsky dandora landfill

Edward Burtynsky, Dandora Landfill #3, Plastics Recycling, Nairobi, Kenya, 2016. Pigment inkjet print, 152.4 x 203.2 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto. © Edward Burtynsky, 2017.

burtynsky landfill
burtynsky phosphor tailings pond

Edward Burtynsky, Phosphor Tailings Pond #4, Near Lakeland, Florida, USA, 2012. Pigment inkjet print, 148.5 x 198.1 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto. © Edward Burtynsky, 2017.

burtynsky phosphor pond
edward burtynsky sawmills

Edward Burtynsky, Saw Mills #1, Lagos, Nigeria, 2016. Pigment inkjet print, 149.5 x 198.1 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto. © Edward Burtynsky, 2017.   

burtynsky saw mills


The exhibition is a component of The Anthropocene Project, a multidisciplinary initiative from the award-winning trio of photographer Edward Burtynsky and filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier. 

The Project’s starting point is research from the Anthropocene Working Group (AWG), an international group of scientists advocating to officially change the name of our present geological epoch, Holocene, to Anthropocene, in recognition of the changes humans have made to the Earth’s systems. The AWG’s research categories, such as anthroturbation, species extinction, technofossils, and terraforming, are represented and explored in various media as evidence of our species’ permanent planetary impact.

Anthropocene is co-organized with the Canadian Photography Institute of the National Gallery of Canada, where a concurrent exhibition will be staged this fall, and the MAST Foundation (Manifattura di Arti, Sperimentazione e Tecnologia), Bologna, Italy, where the show will travel in the spring of 2019.


The three artists created a series of compelling visual experiences, using both new and traditional lens-based media, in order to capture scenes of our human signature, and to convey the complexity and significance of the Anthropocene age. The artists travelled to locations as diverse as Nigeria, Indonesia, China, Australia and Germany. For the artists, no single medium alone is capable of conveying the necessary urgency or creating the necessary impact.


The exhibition will be anchored by about 30 new and newly released large-scale dramatic colour photographs by Edward Burtynsky, all of which show signs of human activity, including striking scenes of mines, landfills, cities, agricultural sites, deserts and forests.

Film Installations

Baichwal and de Pencier have created a set of film installations, highlighting our human impact through duration. Gotthard Base Tunnel, Gotthard, Switzerland (2018) for instance, is shot in the world’s longest railway tunnel running 57 km through the Swiss Alps, an example of anthroturbation – large-scale human tunnelling. Other subjects include technofossil environments, industrial processes and resource extraction.

High-resolution Murals and Film Extensions

The exhibition will also include massive high-resolution photographic murals by Edward Burtynsky – at approximately 10 by 20 feet each – with select film clips, or film extensions, by Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier. These film extensions enhance understanding of context and detail in Burtynsky’s murals, and reference the relationship between mediums in Burtynsky, Baichwal, and de Pencier's larger collaborative work. The murals and film extensions in Anthropocene convey unique and compelling experiences of terraforming, population density, and biodiversity.

Augmented Reality (AR) Installations

The artists will debut three new augmented reality (AR) installations, a new and complex type of image that conveys the most convincing three-dimensionality to date – built from thousands of individual images photogrammetrically mapped onto a virtual volume. These installations will present experiences of confiscated ivory tusks; Sudan, the last male northern white rhino until his death in March 2018; and the second-largest Douglas fir tree (known as Big Lonely Doug), at or near actual scale. All three experiences highlight species threatened by extinction due to intensive human activity, another key marker of the Anthropocene. This immersive technology allows viewers – using a smartphone or tablet with a downloadable app – to move around an object as a kind of virtual sculpture in the gallery space.


Edward Burtynsky

Edward Burtynsky is one of the world’s most respected photographers. His imagery captures scenes of human impact on the land, and his remarkable photographic depictions of industrial landscapes around the world are displayed in leading galleries and major museums, including the National Gallery of Canada, the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in California. The National Gallery of Canada organized and toured the first retrospective of Burtynsky’s work, Manufactured Landscapes, in 2003.

Burtynsky’s work has been recognized and celebrated with a TED Prize, The Outreach Award at the Rencontres d’Arles, the Roloff Beny Book Award and the Rogers Best Canadian Film Award.

He sits on the board of directors for CONTACT: Toronto’s International Photography Festival, and The Ryerson Gallery and Research Center. In 2006 he was awarded the title of Officer of the Order of Canada; in 2016 he received the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts. Most recently Burtynsky was named Photo London's 2018 Master of Photography and the Mosaic Institute’s 2018 Peace Patron. He currently holds eight honorary doctorate degrees.

Jennifer Baichwal

Jennifer Baichwal has directed and produced documentaries for over 20 years. Her films have played all over the world and won multiple awards nationally and internationally, including an International Emmy, three Gemini Awards, and Best Cultural and Best Independent Canadian Documentary at Hot Docs, for features such as Let It Come Down: The Life of Paul Bowles, The Holier It Gets, Act of God, and Payback. Manufactured Landscapes was released in 12 countries and won numerous international awards, including Best Canadian Feature Film at Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in 2006 and Al Gore’s Reel Current Award. The feature documentary Watermark (co-directed by Edward Burtynsky, produced and filmed by Nicholas de Pencier) premiered at TIFF in September 2013, and won the Toronto Film Critics Association prize for Best Canadian Film in 2014. It has since been released in eleven countries.

Baichwal sits on the board of Swim Drink Fish Canada, and is a member of the Ryerson University School of Image Arts Advisory Council. She has been a Director of the Board of the Toronto International Film Festival since 2016, and is a passionate ambassador of their Share Her Journey campaign, a five-year commitment to increasing participation, skills, and opportunities for women behind and in front of the camera.

Nicolas de Pencier

Nicholas de Pencier is a documentary director, producer and director of photography. Selected credits include Let It Come Down: The Life of Paul Bowles (International Emmy), The Holier It Gets (Best Canadian Doc, Hot Docs), The True Meaning of Pictures (Gemini, Best Arts), Hockey Nomad (Gemini, Best Sports), Manufactured Landscapes (TIFF Best Canadian Feature; Genie, Best Doc), and Act of God (Gala Opening Night, Hot Docs). He was the Producer and Director of Photography of Watermark (Special Presentation, TIFF & Berlin, Toronto Film Critics Award, Best Canadian Film, CSA Best Documentary), and Black Code (TIFF 2016), which he also wrote and directed. He was admitted as a full member to the Canadian Society of Cinematographers in 2012, and currently sits on the board of directors of Hot Docs and DOC Toronto.

Baichwal and de Pencier continue to work together, moving into video installation work, producing content for The Tragically Hip’s Fully Completely and Man Machine Poem tours (2014/2016), as well as collaborating with the Rheostatics for Music Inspired by the Group of Seven at the AGO (2015). Their installation, Ice Forms, was part of The Idea of North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris, also at the AGO. Baichwal and de Pencier recently completed Long Time Running, a feature documentary on The Hip’s 2016 cross-Canada tour, which premiered at TIFF in 2017, and was released by Elevation Pictures, and broadcast by Bell and Netflix.

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