In our Workspace series, BC presents interesting, intelligently designed and unique spaces across Canada. From innovative home offices and off-the-shelf coworking spaces to unconventional setups like this rural farm-run beauty business and vintage clothing studio, we seek to showcase the most unique spaces and finest of all industries. This month we feature the studio of Canadian photographer Ed Burtynsky.

Ed Burtynsky has been documenting the effects of industrialization and climate change for over four decades. The Toronto-based landscape photographer has traveled the world, from India to Australia, capturing the impact humans and machines have on the planet.

He works in a loft-style studio in a heritage building in downtown Toronto, a place he has occupied for about 20 years. Burtynsky first set up his photo lab in the commercial building in the mid-1980s and took on more space as his career developed. (He still has his lab, which is down the hall from his studio.) The artist worked with designers Lynn Appleby and David Didur inside, creating a functional open space that allows him and his his team, a handful of collaborators who share the space—to work on projects. Tables for the arrangement of prints are in the center of the room and a large “work wall” allows the artist to hang photographs with magnets for inspection.

In Burtynsky’s personal office, a room separated by glass doors, a bookcase lines the wall with thousands of photo books. The books are largely written by visual artists who, like Burtynsky, document the state of our environment and are cataloged as a library. “I organized them so they could be loaned out,” he says.

Burtynsky’s workspace is also where he spent most of the pandemic developing his latest exhibition, In the wake of progress. The multimedia and immersive exhibition features selected photographs and videos from his 40-year career that capture the impact of things like deforestation, agriculture, mining and manufacturing. “I want audiences to walk away with a deeper appreciation of the consequences of individual human actions as well as our collective actions,” he says. The interactive exhibit runs at the Canadian Opera Company Theater from June 25 to July 17.

Here’s a look at Burtynsky’s workspace.

In the center of Burtynsky’s workspace is a large table where he and his team watch his prints. The brown wall behind is a magnetized “work wall” where photographs are hung and examined. Adjustable overhead lighting allows Burtynsky to view art under various conditions, including gallery lighting, to understand what pieces will look like in a space. “I’m always interested in the viewer who comes to the exhibition,” says Burtynsky. “I want them to have a satisfying experience with the job.”
A shot inside Ed Burtynsky's studio in Toronto
Burtynsky has several tables in his studio. He will design exhibits and have layouts printed to see if the placements are working. “He’s a legend for the series,” he explains.
A portrait of photographer Ed Burtynsky in his office
Burtynsky at his desk. He estimates that he has around 2,000 photo books in his office.
Deep in his workspace is an inventory room where prints are mounted once purchased. This is also where the artist makes all his signatures.
Burtynsky signed hundreds of copies of his exhibition book for In the wake of progress.

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