I must admit that I've resisted watching Manufactured Landscapes about Edward Burtynsky, even though both the local library and the local video store (are they still called that?) have it.
But reading Timothy Archibald's recent critique of it, I may finally have to take a look (although in my head I will probably be comparing it to two "documentary" films I watched recently the brilliant My Architect [actually, re-watched it as it was on TV] and the quirky, mildly annoying but illuminating William Eggleston in the Real World.)
Here are a few of Archibald's somewhat restrained comments:
"Friday night I rented this documentary and watched it at home. My wife loved it, felt it had an important message about man's impact on the environment, and was really taken by EB's photographs. I felt differently: if I ever wanted to make photography seem boring to a bunch of students, to discourage them from getting into the field, this is the film I would show them.
The DVD seemed like a promotional handout that would be given to collectors interested in purchasing E.B.'s work. In the same way that people who purchase a Toyota Prius now feel like they've done some good, this film seemed to try to encourage buyers that E.B. really cares, that this work is important, that the planet will be saved. Then...as we explore the DVD extras, Al Gore is chiming in on one of the segments. WTF??? His inclusion on this film was so expected, so calculated, any thinking viewer saw it coming....
...So...why do I hate on this film? Is it because E.B. is so popular and successful? Maybe. But I think there is this feeling of liberation that comes when you see a person so deeply invested in their art, instilling their photographs with all the weirdness they have in themselves, and just being honest about it all and mixing it all up together. E.B. didn't have that...he seemed so detached, like he could have been doing any number of things successfully for a living but just happened to choose photography. Well...what's the problem with that?
I think it just comes down to a revelation about my personal taste. I like looking at weird photographs done by unusual people. Is that O.K. to admit?"
And I'll finish, with an image not by Burtynsky, of one of Louis Khan's incredible buildings (see My Architect above)
(Photo by "The Nose" via Wikipedia)