Aqua Shock

From the 3rd of September to the 1st of November, 2015, in the ancient heart of Milan, in Palazzo della Ragione, took place a famous exposition of the photographer Edward Burtinsky named «Aqua Shock». This Palace has been a symbol of the city since 1228. In modern times, it has been decided to dedicate this historical monument permanently to photography. A special venue, with a specific logo that allows immediate identification, confirms the city’s renewed interest in this form of communication and expression. Ancient halls and art photography meet here, with an interesting contrast between past and present.

By «Aqua Shock» Edward Burtinsky has tried to draw the world’s attention to the responsible use of water resources of the planet as well as to call for an effective action to preserve the treasures of our Earth for future generations.


Natural resources are the headline of Burtinsky’s work.  After having created a series about caves and another series dedicated to oil, he has focused in recent years on the study of the primary source of life on Earth: water.

The exhibition includes 60 photographs divided into seven chapters: Gulf of Mexico, Devastation, Control, Agriculture, Aquaculture, River and Sources.

The internationally renowned Canadian photographer Burtinsky investigates the relationship between nature and industry, being inspired by the places of his hometown in Ontario and by General Motors factories. «Aqua Shock» project shows the extent and impact of the production and consumption of water resources in the world, aiming to stimulate a debate on the central role played by water for human life and the earth.


Edward Burtinsky is a very respected photographer in Canada. His remarkable photographic depictions of global industrial landscapes are included in the collections of over sixty major museums around the world, including the National Gallery of Canada, the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in California.

Burtinsky was born in 1955 being of Ukrainian heritage in St. Catharines, Ontario. He graduated with a BA in photography and media studies in Ryerson University in 1982.  In 1985 he founded Toronto Image Works, a darkroom rental facility, custom photo laboratory, digital imaging and new media computer-training centre catering for all levels of Toronto’s art community.


Edward has always given himself fully to the art of photography. He is keen on creating great pictures and exploring the world in different dimensions to show its pure beauty and portray its power to the people.

He wants the public to appreciate the endless possibilities which our planet is giving us everyday.

Unfortunately, nowadays few people respect the water and a lot of them do not appreciate its value. Nonetheless, water covers 71% of the Earth’s surface and it is indispensable part of life in the world. Safe drinking water is essential to humans and other life forms.

Mankind has time and money to search for water on Mars but has been unable for many years to deliver water to dry lands. Hopefully, access to safe drinking water has improved over the last decades in almost every part of the world, but approximately one billion people still lack access to drinkable water and over 2.5 billion lack access to adequate sanitation.

Edward Burtinsky’s idea is to make us focus on this issue through his photographic project. He wants people to be more respectful to water and to understand its real power in our everyday life. Just imagine the world without water, it seems like there is nothing else to imagine. There is no water, there is no life anymore. Water is the main element.

Edward Burtinsky has been travelling a lot and he imprinted in his shots different places around the world and showed in how many different ways people use water.  At the exhibition a lot of images of industrial structures where water is used for cultivation can be seen. Approximately 70% of the freshwater used by humans goes to agriculture.

Also, residential neighborhoods where water is needed for personal use of habitants. A large number of beach resorts with people relaxing could be seen in these photos, as well as the ritual use of water in India, where people bathe in the holy lake during the traditional celebration.

Thus, it becomes obvious how much human life is affected by water. It is not just a biological need which, obviously is crucial, but it is also a significant part of culture. Clean water helps people to renew the energy and sometimes is used even for religious rituals such as baptizing or a holy dip.

Our society is largely dependent on water in all aspects of human nature. People have a psychological and physical need for it. Unfortunately, often humanity does not pay attention to the most important things in life. Hence the question arises: what will the world do if water resources run out?

It is the main point to which Edward Burtinsky wanted to turn human minds. He wanted people to treat water respectfully and judiciously. Take a moment from the busy life and behold the beauty of the world and appreciate such a great resource as water.

His idea of creating the series of photographs of water had a very deep meaning. He wanted to understand water. He intended to find out how people used and exploited it.  He wanted to trace the evidence of the global thirst and threatened sources. Water has always been part of his photographic landscapes and now at the exposition we had a possibility of contemplating all the pictures dedicated to water together.


Walrus John (2013) Interview Of Edward Burtinsky. Edwardburtynsky [Online]

[Accessed on November 2015]


Austin Peter (2015) Edward Burtinsky – Acqua Shock. MilanMuseumGuide [Online]

[Accessed on November 2015]


Kleber Birgit (2012) Edward Burtinsky Biography. Edwardburtynsky [Online]

[Accessed on November 2015]



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