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Edward Burtynsky Exhibition at the Phoenix Art Museum

Here in the desert, water is often on our minds.


Quenching thirst is a necessity in this arid climate, and during scorching summers access to a pool is highly desirable. The lack of natural water sources is evident in the dusty landscape, painted with varying shades of brown. Rainfall is scarce, with an average of 8 inches annually in Phoenix.


Still, water freely flows from our faucets, showers and hoses, so it isn't obvious that availability of water is a problem across the globe. It doesn't feel urgent to us until the water bill increases or essential sources dry up for good.


Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky puts humanity's relationship with water in visual terms. He spent six years traversing the globe to document water — how it is used and consumed — including one photo taken in Arizona.


In "Water" at the Phoenix Art Museum, Burtynsky's stunning large-scale photographs, most taken from an aerial perspective, show how people have affected water through industry to provide energy and food, for use in religious ceremonies, and for aesthetic and entertainment purposes.


"It's visually compelling by itself," said Becky Senf, Norton Family Curator of Photography.  "It's an exploration of the life cycle of water, and it has obvious resonance for Phoenix. We as Arizonans are intimately familiar with the subject matter, and we know what it means to live in the desert and have very little rainfall, depleted aquifers, and we understand visceral water scarcity."