For over 10 years, Edward Burtynsky has been photographing the global influence of oil. From the vast industrial landscapes of oil fields, oil sands and refineries, to the equally vast landscapes of oil-addicted suburbs and highways, and finally to the scrapyards and abandoned production sites in remote places like Azerbaijan and Bangladesh.
As in Burtynsky's earlier projects like 'Quarries' and 'Urban Mines', 'Oil' is at its best where his industrial wastelands take on an abstract quality - as if we're looking at the impressive but incomprehensible remains of some alien culture. But of course, they are really the uncomfortable, and often ecologically disastrous byproducts of our own culture.
This kind of visual Verfremdungseffekt was also visible in the documentary about Burtynsky's work, 'Manufactures Landscapes'. Besides showing Burtynsky at work in China and other locations, the film translated his visual style into moving images - often with mesmerizing results. (Here, for instance, is the opening shot, an endless tracking shot through a factory in China, revealing the enormous proportions of the production activity.)