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Petroaesthetics and Landscape Photography

Petroaesthetics and Landscape Photography

New Topographics, Edward Burtynsky, and the Culture of Peak Oil

(p.289) 15 Petroaesthetics and Landscape Photography
Oil Culture
Catherine Zuromskis
University of Minnesota Press

This chapter examines two significant photographic exhibitions—the 1975 New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape at the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film in Rochester, New York, and a 2009 traveling exhibition of Edward Burtynsky’s photographs of oil landscapes, entitled Burtynsky: Oil. It employs the two exhibitions to explore the quiet resonances of unease and anxiety that structure contemporary landscape photographers’ visions of petromodernity. It considers what landscape photography does to frame both the oil industry and the pervasive petroculture it supports on both a political and an affective level. It also discusses landscape photography in relation to petro-postmodernity and petroaesthetics. It argues that both New Topographics and Burtynsky’s Oil offer insight into the “structures of feeling” that define life in the West in the age of oil.

Keywords:   exhibitions, Edward Burtynsky, photographs, oil landscapes, petromodernity, landscape photography, oil industry, petroculture, petro-postmodernity, petroaesthetics

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