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WAAC Education Committee presents ARTIST VOICES Speaker Series with Robert Burley

The Great Lakes: A Long View

October 17, 2024

via ZOOM or Watch together In-Person at WAAC

Register online HERE or contact WAAC office (waac@womensartofcanada.ca | 416-922-2060)


In 2001, Robert Burley embarked on a series of large-scale color photographs capturing the Great Lakes. Drawing from his early memories of growing up in a rural community on Lake Ontario and extensive experience photographing landscapes across North America, he conceived this project as a tribute to the presence, beauty, and rich history of these vast bodies of water. Like many, his relationship with these lakes is multifaceted and intricate. They represent places of labor, mortality, and recreation, evoking a complex mix of emotions: awe, mystery, fear, yearning, melancholy, wonder, abundance, and joy. Collectively, these works aim to challenge our relationship with these inland seas—as vital resources for sustaining life and as sources of psychological and spiritual nourishment.


Robert Burley is a Canadian artist renowned for his internationally acclaimed photographs that explore the intersection of nature and urban environments, architecture, and the cityscape. With a career spanning over 40 years, Burley has embarked on exten­sive visual investigations into diverse subjects, including Chicago’s O’Hare Airfield, the landscapes designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, and Toronto’s natural parklands.

His work also encompasses commissioned and self-directed projects capturing urban spaces and structures, from the vanishing industrial buildings of the photography industry to the distinctive character of urban sprawl and heritage architecture. Burley’s photographs have been widely published and are held in museum collections worldwide, including the National Gallery of Cana­da, Musée de l’Elysée, George Eastman Museum, Yale University Art Gallery, the Canadian Centre for Architecture, and Fotomu­seum Antwerp (FOMU).

Books showcasing Robert Burley’s work include Viewing Olmsted: Photographs by Robert Burley, Lee Friedlander, and Geoffrey James (MIT Press, 1996), The Disappearance of Darkness: Photography at the End of the Analog Era (Princeton Architectural Press, 2012), An Enduring Wilderness: Toronto’s Natural Parklands (ECW Press, 2017), and Accidental Wilderness (U of T Press, 2020).

A recipient of numerous awards, Burley was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and was honored as a Senior Mellon Fellow by the Canadian Centre for Architecture. He lives and works in Toronto and is represented by the Stephen Bulger Gallery.

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