Thursday, January 21, 2010

David Burdeny

Macon, Loire Valley, France
(All photographs by and © David Burdeny)

I'd be interested to see what people feel about the photography of David Burdeny. I've been getting updates about his work off Facebook and have gradually found myself getting more and more interested in it.

Some of his subjects don't really draw me in. Icebergs for instance. I know they are very popular and his photographs are quite stunning - but icebergs just don't do it for me - it's a personal things. And some of them, especially some of the black and white work, comes a touch to close to Michael Kenna territory. Technically and compositionally perfect, eye catching at first glance, but all beauty and no truth. In a way I find them too perfect. In such pictures I find I need some imperfections, some imbalance, more of the sublime - the sublime of the Romantics - awe, a touch of fear, the possibly being overwhelmed - tremendum et fascinans.

Uummannaq, Greenland

But it's the pictures on the front page of his website that are getting me (I believe the project is Sacred & Secular?), especially the series of horizontal sea and riverscapes. I certainly find them beautiful, but there's also a lack of absolute perfection in them. You can't control the skyline of a city so easily and in this form, even Venice doesn't quite look like "Venice". And there is a strange but, in a way, quite obvious linkage between Uummannaq and Venice and Dubai.

Dubai I, Persian Gulf, UAE

This aspect of Burdeny's work reminds me a bit of Elger Esser's work, although Burdeny stays within the accepted limits of the photographic process, not experimenting with colour in the way Esser often does for example.

Oh and if you are in British Columbia he has work up at the Jennifer Kostiuk Gallery in Vancouver at the end of February I believe (So I guess if you are going to the Winter Olympics, you should be able to catch the show around the time of the Olympics Closing Ceremony...)

But over to you - any thoughts?

Grand Canal II, Venezia, Italy

(All photographs by and © David Burdeny)


e.e.nixon said...

I haven't read his statement; I think that's appropriate if you would like some 'un-mediated' thinking. And I've only looked at the strip of images on the main page.

I think the question is: what are the limits or parameters of a personal style or, to be a bit more cynical, brand? I wonder if the Burdeny's work isn't in danger of tipping over with an excess of 'personal style?' Of becomming overly mannered in order to try to distinguish itself from all the other urban landscape work?

The thread of images that lead me to these questions are those depicting and small strip of buildings sandwiched between large bands of sky and water. With repetitions of this motif, their effectiveness diminishes and they can come close to caricatures. The ambivalent nature of the visual is reinforced by the title -- body of water or city.

I suppose my bias, if that is what I'm expressing, comes from looking at the images on the web. I guess they are large format pictures intended for large size print display. Should one expect an image to be able to transcend its display mode? Good question. Should an image be shackled with only one display mode? Probably not. For example the last two frames in the strip are instructive: we have the usual urban strip sandwiched between sheltering sky and cushioning water in the second last image, then in the last, we have a detail view. From a web browser's point of view, the last image is far more interesting, both in terms of its content but also in terms of the obvious physical qualities of tonal subtlety and detail.

There are, of course, numerous other images that differ from the strip motif. The one that sticks in my mind is the stunning variation on the traditional Paris theme, Notre Dame as seen from Seine.

The likelihood of my ever seeing Burdeny's pictures 'in the flesh' seems small. I don't know if my appreciation of them should involve the necessity of my having to bridge some sort of cognitive gap, the result of looking at it out of its intended context -- in this case a well lit gallery. Perhaps there is a middle ground; I remember being knocked out in seeing Burtynsky's catalog for Manufactured Landscapes a number of months after two trips to see the show at the AGO. The prints on the wall were in many cases too large to be taken in, requiring a psychological magnifying glass and a dose of physical work. On the other hand, the book/catalog was for me the 'just right' format -- the images were accessible to the eye and the technical characteristics were condensed and luminous.

Enough thoughts for you? Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

The Four Muses said...

Burdeny's photography has the same timeless quality of Elger Esser's. I do not think it is necessary for an image to work in all sizes. Sometimes a photography only works large scale or as a small print. Anyway, check out Esser's work.

Unknown said...

I like the neatness of the photos, and i like that the ground or water, really, and the sky somewhat disappear with exception of a few wisps of the clouds. It is really beautiful, although i do catch myself looking for the imperfections as well. But everything is balanced and just perfect. Definitely catches my eye. I wonder if the works of art did have imperfections if it would catch my eye more than the perfections do though..?

Anonymous said...


Hope all is well. I htink I agree with you about Burdeny - the work is really quite good. You might find this story interesting if you've not already seen it:,0,4200255.story

Jim Johnson

see said...

Questionable at best:

Sharmanthy said...

I loved it, very specially Macon, Loire Valley,France

BEAUTIFUL, that's the only word....!!!