How does an international award-winning photographer and documentary-maker help us understand our transfigured planet? Edward Burtynsky charts his own trajectory, from exploring the Canadian wilderness as a child, to his development as an artist responding to the last century's explosion of industry and technology, which has resulted in immense disruption to our planet. Almost every landscape on earth is now scarred and manipulated by our insatiable appetite for progress. Across the course of more than four decades, Burtynsky has used his images, taken on vast geological scales, to both document and question the effects our rapid and widespread changes have on our collective home. His career has mirrored our concerns. In the 1980s, he captured landscapes rendered bare through the extractive processes of industrialization – mines, quarries and railways. In the 1990s, he documented the unseen and forgotten end-product of our consumption: abandoned cities of waste, metal, plastic and tires – the detritus of modernity. As we passed a new millennium the focus shifted from photographing vast oil-fields and refineries to our manipulation and depletion of water. As we continue through the Anthropocene – an era defined by our destruction and engineering of Earth's natural resources and processes – the author continues to believe in the power of images as poetry and narrative. Such images force us to confront our role in a world buckling under the weight of our economic and consumptive overdrive.