The Salt Series



A highly regarded and influential landscape photographer, David Burdeny has a keen eye for the aesthetic intrigue in the world around us. Honoured 3 times as International Fine Art Photographer of the Year at the IPAs, Burdeny’s many thematic series – including on arctic topography, prairie architecture and Moscow’s modernist metro stations – all pay exquisitely precise attention to liminal places. Real world places that almost seem part of a fantasia.  I appreciated hearing David’s stories of being up in the air, over and over, as he prepared the work for the series Salt which features sweeping aerial views of colourful salt pools. His visceral experience of these scenes was a key to understanding the emotional value in the work.

 “In their use of amorphous shapes, elongated fields of colour and vertical, jagged and sinuous lines, Burdeny’s images suggest the painterly expressiveness of Rothko, Still, Newman, Diebenkorn and late career Willem de Kooning. The effect is less intentional than it is available – Modernism’s abstracted reordering of the visual landscape (which essentially got going in pre-WWI Paris with Robert Delaunay and his aerial scenes of the Eiffel Tower) permits a non-objective reading of these compositions.” 

Barry Dumka 



The Salt Series

In 1858, Gaspard-Felix Tournachon – known with a flourish as ‘Nadar’ – mounted a wet-plate collodion camera to a giant gas-powered balloon, becoming the first to take photography to aerial heights. Jules Verne called Nadar, “an Icarus with replaceable wings.” The lofty spirit of this industrious age was animated by the potential for height- people were eager to go up high. But the noted caricaturist Honore Daumier – typically the century’s most incisive social chronicler – doubted that there was anything aesthetically beneficial to be gained from such a lofty perspective. Daumier’s famously satirical lithograph, Nadar Raising Photography to the Height of Art, was intended as a mockery of aerial photography’s artistic pretense and as a warning against its surveillance purpose. Daumier’s print shows Nadar rising high above Paris with his camera pointed down and every building below target-marked by the word “PHOTOGRAPHIE”. Already, the utility of panoptic vision was thought to trump its sublime allure or transcendental opportunity. And it would take another 50 years before this fundamentally ne w visual perspective – the world seen from above – would upend artistic representation of space.

That tension between utilitarian purpose and artistic inspiration is the unexpectedly compelling strength of David Burdeny’s mesmerizing series of aerial abstractions called Salt. Burdeny’s large format and luminously intriguing photographs of salterns occupy the hazy borderzone between the prosaic and the poetic. In our hyper-connected age of GPS, Google maps and instant information, the instinctual reaction to these scenes might be to determine the where and the why of them – their ground level location or biological fact. To see first the service roads and draining ditches or to puzzle out how the chemical balance in the salt ponds creates these particular blooms of colour. Such readings serve to root vision in the commonplace and established order – the here and now – and downgrade the sublimity in the aerial experience. But Burdeny’s Salt photographs aim to be more evocative and exalted than pedestrian. They seek to elevate our knowledge and experience of the world in more ways than one.

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