The Most Beautiful Plumbing You'll Ever See : The Picture Show Fine art photographer Edward Burtynsky's series in National Geographic magazine makes California's plumbing system look good.
NPR logo The Most Beautiful Plumbing You'll Ever See

The Most Beautiful Plumbing You'll Ever See

National Geographic's special April issue is a mini gospel devoted to water-related issues. But (more importantly) it also has an all-star cast of photographers — and is jam-packed with extraordinary visuals. There's a political piece by Magnum photojournalist Paolo Pellegrin, and a more religio-cultural survey by John Stanmeyer, founding member of VII photo agency. In addition to photojournalism, there's also fine art in disguise.

Renowned large-format film photographer Edward Burtynsky photographed a story on California's endangered water system. Trust me: You'll never see plumbing and industrialization look so beautiful. That's Burtynsky's style: blurring the line between art and journalism. His larger-than-life aerials are breathtaking — but the subject matter isn't quite as glamorous: highways, suburban sprawl, polluted landscapes, oil refineries, etc. His TED wish, which summarizes his mission, was "that his images — stunning landscapes that document humanity's impact on the world — help persuade millions to join a global conversation on sustainability."

Burtynsky's most recent exhibition and book, for example, survey a decade of his photographs on the subject of oil, and explore the relationship between industry and nature. Check out the rest of his portfolio on his Web site, and learn more about his National Geographic story on

And, in case you're having a particularly slow day, The Annenberg Space For Photography also has narrated video, in which Burtynsky describes his work.

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