The List: 10 things celebrated photographer Edward Burtynsky can’t live without

The List: 10 things celebrated photographer Edward Burtynsky can’t live without

Edward Burtynsky, the city’s most celebrated photographer and CONTACT Festival headliner, is showing his series about Oil at the ROM this month. Here, the 10 things he can’t live without

Edward Burtynsky
Burtynsky's Linhof camera
My tools
I built my career on a Linhof camera I’ve had for 30 years. It’s been around the world with me about 10 times, but my new digital Hasselblad gets better results doing aerial work than I could ever get with film.

Jumping the queue
My Nexus card allows me to bypass border clearance when I travel to the U.S. two or three times a month. I just go up to a machine that reads my iris, and I answer a few questions on a touch screen. Then I get a card, get my luggage and go.

Burtynsky's Calphalon skillet
My special skillet
I have a full set of Calphalon pots, pans and knives, but the nine-inch frying pan is my most battle-weary. I travel often, so I like to cook for my friends when I’m home.

Emmet Gowin’s Changing the Earth photo book
My library
There’s a floor-to-ceiling bookcase in my office for my photo books. My favourite is Emmet Gowin’s photography in Changing the Earth. His aerial work inspired a lot of the stuff I’m doing right now.

My own forest
There are about 2,000 trees in the 15 acres of forest at my place near Collingwood, many of which I planted when I bought the property 25 years ago. It’s my attempt to offset my carbon consumption. This spring, I’m putting solar panels on the roof and taking the place right off the grid.

Burtynsky's lucky sneakers
My lucky kicks
In 2007, I was in Australia working on a series about mines in the outback. I was praying for clouds to get the lighting I needed, but that area only gets about 12 overcast days a year. I was wearing a new pair of running shoes when the clouds rolled in. I figured they brought me good luck. They’re pretty beat up now, but they travel with me wherever I go.

Burtynsky's Spiderman camera
My mentor memento
Rob Gooblar was my photography teacher at Ryerson in 1977. He gave me a toy Spider-Man camera as a gift. It used to take 126 film and had one of those cubes with four flashes that turned as you cocked the camera. He inspired me to go on when no one was paying attention to my work.

My giant magnet
I built a magnetic wall in my studio that can hold large prints under different lights. It’s become the pivotal place where all the decisions about the colour, the density, the contrast and the size of a print are determined.

My after-dinner drink


I enjoy finishing a good dinner with a grappa, especially from Poli Distilleries. I drink it from glasses I bought in Italy in a place called Bassano del Grappa.

Me time
I get lots of rest on planes because no one can reach me. I put on these Bose noise-cancellation headphones and zone out.

(Images: John Cullen; book by Carlo Mendoza)