For this series Burtynsky traveled to Gujarat, India, to photograph the Little Rann of Kutch, a region that is home to more than 100,000 salt workers extracting around one million tons of salt from the floodwaters of the Arabian Sea each year. Salt has been their main industry for the last four hundred years. Receding groundwater levels and declining market values will in time make this way of life obsolete and will cause the salt pans to disappear.
From an aerial vantage point approximately 500 - 800 feet above the ground, Burtynsky photographed this unusual landscape of multi-coloured interlocking rectangles, spanning across the delta. In recent years, Burtynsky’s photographs have become increasingly abstract as a result of his topographical perspective and fascination with finding similarities in the industrialized landscape to painting. Salt Pans continues in this direction with Burtynsky exploring the subtle modulations of tone and compositional balance of the pans, and the calligraphic tracks from vehicles referencing scale and human activity. Burtynsky’s images encapsulate the delicate balance between natural and human processes – the presence of salt in the earth’s composition and our need to harness it.
"The images in this book are not about the battles being fought on the ground. Rather, they examine this ancient method of providing one of the most basic elements of our diet; as primitive industry and as abstract two-dimensional human marks upon the landscape."