The work “anthropocene” was coined to designate planetary and epochal change we have wrought as a species— mass extinctions, oceans acidified, nuclear weapons unleashed, ice caps melted, mountains flattened and new ones erected. It’s difficult to grasp a crisis so huge, but Anthropocene, a multi- disciplinary project by Toronto-based photographer Edward Burtynsky, director and filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal, and producer and director of photography Nicholas de Pencier— which incorporates a photobook, a documentary film, a traveling exhibition, and an interactive website—is a worthy attempt. The project implores us to see the planet from a perspective in which we are justly implicated in its destruction, and by extension, our own.
The photo book, set to release November 20th via Steidl, features photographs by award-winning aerial photographer Edward Burtynsky, selections of which are presented here. His large format images, taken from a vantage that reveals the overwhelming scale of humankind’s interventions on the planet, offer a sobering look at a transition to a new era. The images are paired with haunting poetry from Margaret Atwood and illuminating essays from Suzaan Boettger, Colin Waters, and Jan Zalasiewicz, which contextualize the images, bringing a potentially overwhelming phenomenon down to intimate human scale. Looking at the strata in a rock, millions and millions of years compressed into slivers, it’s humbling to imagine eons hence, when the human era could be just one more line. Anthropocene warns us, beautifully and eerily, that we may already be on the way there.