Through Saturday, November 28th, New York City's Hasted Hunt Kraeutler gallery is exhibiting a series of photographer Edward Burtynsky titled Oil. Replete with desolate landscapes, refineries, and black-violet slicks, Oil captures the ugliness, beauty, and destruction brought about, at least in part, by fuel.
A distinction between the organic and the inorganic becomes increasingly apparent as one takes in the series. Organic matter is changeable and easy to exhaust: most of the land in the photographs appears ragged and bitter. In contrast, fuel, concrete, and metals give rise to partitioning and ordering, a sense that Burtynsky conveys through his concentration on lines and geometric forms contained or created by the machinery and locations in his pictures.
By placing the images in an order that begins with oil refining, moves into travel and industry, and concludes with wreckage and abandoned military vehicles, Burtynsky infuses a sense of narrative into the series: oil is found, gives rise to demand, is instrumental in travel, and is part of a larger system of activities that contributes to war and decay.
In parts two and three of this post, the works of photographer and Alaskan Fisherman Corey Arnold (Fish-Work Bering Sea and Fish-Work Norway) and documentarist Nicolai Howalt (Car Crash Studies) offer complimentary and contrasting visions of industry and products.